As you know, I normally try and link my throwback Thursday reviews to my Tuesday reviews. So, this week I could have picked any number of films. Another Pedro Almodóvar film or something starring Antonio Banderas. I didn’t just have plenty of options but plenty of good options. Instead, I decided to watch a random 90s comedy starring Kevin Kline. It had been on my mind since my last Friday Favourites. Looking at Tom Hanks’ Wikipedia page reminded me of the story that inspired In and Out. During his acceptance speech, Tom Hanks thanked his former drama teacher and an old classmate before describing them as “two of the finest gay Americans.”
I hadn’t realised that Joan Cusack had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 1998 Academy Awards for her role in this film. I utterly adore but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t speak very highly about cinema in 1997. As a child during the 90s, I guess I wasn’t really paying attention to what was being released but, when you look at the nominations and winners of awards in that period, you really have to question what was going on. There can be no doubt that Cusack is as brilliant and funny as she always is but it’s hardly Oscar-worthy. Well, it wouldn’t be Oscar-worthy now. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone even putting a film like this up for consideration. But a lot has changed in the last 23 years.
In & Out is a simple and slightly ridiculous story. It was supposed to be one of Hollywood’s first gay comedy films. When his former student and big Hollywood star wins an Oscar, English teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is ecstatic to get a mention in his acceptance speech. Until Cameron (Matt Dillon) outs him as gay. Something that comes as something of a shock to Howard, his fiance Emily (Cusack), and the whole town. A media circus quickly flocks to Howard’s home trying to get an exclusive interview with him. So, Howard must try to convince not only his nearest and dearest but the press that he isn’t gay. Unfortunately, journalist Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) isn’t so easily convinced. Is Howard hiding something or is it just a case of mistaken identity?
There’s a lot of stuff about In and Out that feels a bit dodgy these days. A lot of the humour comes out of awful stereotypes. This is the kind of film that tries to make a social comment about accepting your sexuality but it also promotes awful and out-dated stereotypes about gay people. It’s kind of cringy and I wasn’t sure about actually watching all of it. Yet, there is something about Kevin Kline that makes it impossible to look away. That man is amazing and can do physical comedy that you can’t help but chuckle at. Even if that involves a grown man dancing to Gloria Gaynor in a camp manner.
Even though this film hasn’t necessarily aged well, I’d still say it was kind of progressive for its time. It not only normalises homosexuality Of course it helps that I’ve recently watched Philadelphia. That was a film trying to fight for gay men’s rights but that was too afraid to let its main character be gay. Yes, In and Out isn’t exactly the most positive LGBTQ+ film but it does make a point of letting gay men be gay. It also includes more intimacy within a comedy kiss between Kline and Tom Selleck than was allowed between Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas in a film that was supposed to be championing gay men. Of course, it’s a kiss that is played for laughs and is incredibly insensitive by today’s standards.
Still, this is a fairly fun film. It’s not the greatest thing ever and it won’t make you feel good to laugh at it. But you will laugh. The cast is good and the story is fun. It’s not big and it’s not clever but it’s entertaining. And it’s mostly thanks to the cast. Cusack and Kline are both fantastic and make it almost okay to find this film funny. But, to be honest, I’d watch them do anything.