The Birdcage is a scream. It may not have seemed that the world needed a remake of La Cage aux Folles, the 1978 French smash hit that spawned two sequels plus a Broadway musical, but Mike Nichols and Elaine May, in their first official screen collaboration, have scored with a riotous comedy whose irreverent topicality is one of its most refreshing components.
Armand (Robin Williams) runs the hugely successful boite, where the family-oriented drag revue is headed by ‘Starina,’ otherwise known as Albert (Nathan Lane). Although the more ‘masculine’ Armand must frequently calm and placate the campy and often hysterical Albert, the two have enjoyed a strong personal and professional relationship for 20 years and have successfully raised Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman).
Complications click in when Val arrives to announce that he intends to get married and that Val’s future father-in-law is Republican Sen. Keeley (Gene Hackman), co-founder of the Coalition for Moral Order. He and his prim-and-proper wife (Dianne Wiest) and daughter, Barbara (Calista Flockhart), drop in on the menagerie in Miami, and the impending visit throws the household into a tizzy.
The filmmakers have strayed from the structure and characters of the original nary at all, but have adapted it all to a contempo American context with dizzying skill. The ultra-trendy and colorful South Beach setting, with toned, tanned and virtually naked bodies constantly parading along the beach front, couldn’t be more appropriate.
1996: Nomination: Best Art Direction