Film Scouts Reviews

"In & Out"

by Richard Schwartz

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In approaching the touchy issue of homosexuality on screen, Hollywood's discussion has conventionally taken the form of a small-release independent film or a supporting character in a weighty drama. With "In & Out," however, producer Scott Rudin and director Frank Oz drag the once-taboo topic out of the closet and into a somewhat surprising forum - a mainstream lightweight comedy vehicle.

Kevin Kline stars as smalltown high school drama teacher Howard Brackett, whose life is turned upside down when his star-pupil-turned-Hollywood-hearthrob (Matt Dillon) wins the Best Actor Oscar - and uses his acceptance speech to "out" Brackett a la Tom Hanks. The problem, you see, is that Brackett is not really gay; in fact, he has plans to marry his longtime fiancee later that week. At least that's what most people, including Brackett, think. But amid the anxiety of his impending matrimony and a media feeding frenzy led by a gay tabloid reporter (Tom Selleck), Brackett begins reexamining his sexuality.

The script by Paul Rudnick, who last tackled the sexuality issue in "Jeffrey," moves rather well as most scenes deliver some type of payoff. The humor is neither lowbrow nor grossly stereotypical. In a "Seinfeld" vein, the film tends to avoid the overt sexual references and instead concentrate on the culture of details surrounding homosexuality. While "In & Out" seems daring at times, most notably in an on-screen kiss between Kline and Selleck, the film ultimately backs down with a seemingly contrived climax and unsatsifying tag that backs away from bolder issues by instead seeking to reaffirm traditional attitudes on homosexuality. Again, though, in making this critique one must be reminded that "In & Out" is still mainstream and merely a comedy, so expectations need not be too lofty.

Kline, who has proven he can work everything from Shakespeare to Python, contributes a fine performance as the everyman who begin re-interpreting his every action - from hand gestures to a fondness for Barbra Streisand - as a potential indicator of his sexuality. In their supporting roles, Selleck and Dillon are complementary during their limited screen time. Yet it is graying veterans Wilford Brimley and Debbie Reynolds who grab the spotlight in their comical turn as Brackett's skittish but well-intentioned parents.

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