F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 22, 2011)

22 07 2011

Director Will Gluck has made two hilarious movies in “Easy A” and “Friends with Benefits.” The two share quite a few things in common, but one not-so-flattering similarity I noticed was a slightly unfavorable portrayal of homosexuals. In “Easy A,” Dan Byrd’s gay teen Carter participates in an elaborate subterfuge with Emma Stone’s Olive in order to convince the masses that he is heterosexual. In “Friends with Benefits,” Woody Harrelson’s Vogue editor plays a one-note gay character that is totally defined on screen by his homosexuality. (He does get a slight pass, however, because the character is supposedly based on the president of Screen Gems.)

While I certainly don’t consider Glick a hateful person who would deliberately reinforce negative stereotypes, cinema has seen better, more respectful portrayals. Dwelling on my observations, I couldn’t shake one movie from my mind that handles homosexuality with decency: “In & Out,” Frank Oz’s 1997 comedy. It’s a funny, touching movie that hits on some big issues without every feeling preachy or activist, and as such, it is my pick for the “F.I.LM. of the Week.”

A high concept comedy rooted in reality, namely in imagining the fallout of Tom Hanks’ Oscar acceptance speech for “Philadelphia,” the movie follows small-town professor Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), unintentionally outed by his Academy Award-winning former pupil (Matt Dillon) … on the week before he is about to marry his longtime girlfriend Emily (Joan Cusack).  He expects it all to blow over quickly since his marriage should be proof enough that he is straight.  Yet his sexuality is relentlessly scrutinized everyone and is only amplified by the presence of press and the prejudices of the town.  Howard is forced to confront the idea that the facade he projects to the world is just that, and Oz finds humor in his self-examination every step of the way.

When watching “In & Out,” you have to remember this came before “The Kids Are All Right,” before “Milk,” and even before “Brokeback Mountain” made gay issues a mainstream conversation topic.  It was considered very bold at the time and still retains some of that power today.  It’s relevance is due largely in part to its very level-headed perspective, most clearly articulated in its conclusion.  Sexuality is not what defines our identities, and this is what I think “Easy A” and “Friends with Benefits” seemed to be missing.  Our identity should be defined by our character, and “In & Out” glorifies this to the highest level.

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3 responses

23 07 2011
Steven Flores

It’s been years since I’ve seen that film. It’s pretty funny. The part where Kevin Kline listens to a self-help tape is hilarious.

24 07 2011
Sam

I’ve never seen this. But in regards to films that push the lines of homosexuality, have you seen “I Love You, Phillip Morris”?

24 07 2011
Marshall

No, I’m not a big Jim Carrey fan…although I’ll probably check it out once it comes on Netflix instant streaming next month.

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