The Birdcage (1996)


The Birdcage is a 1996 American comedy film directed by Mike Nichols, and stars Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria, and Christine Baranski. The script was written by Elaine May. It is an American remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film, La Cage aux Folles, by Jean Poiret and Francis Veber, starring Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.


Val Goldman and Barbara Keeley are engaged to be married, and wish to have their families meet. Val's father, Armand, owns The Birdcage, a South Beach drag club. His domestic partner is Albert, who appears regularly as "Starina," the show's star drag queen. Barbara's father is ultraconservative Republican Ohio Senator Kevin Keeley, who is seeking re-election as the co-founder of the "Coalition for Moral Order". Fearing their reaction if they learn the truth about Val's parents, Barbara tells her parents that Armand is a cultural attaché to Greece, that Albert is a housewife, and that they divide their time between Greece and Florida; she also changes the family's last name from Goldman to Coleman to hide their Jewish background. Kevin receives a phone call: Senator Jackson, Kevin's colleague and co-founder of the Coalition for Moral Order, has been found dead in the bed of an underage African-American prostitute; the event receives a large amount of coverage in the media. Louise Keeley proposes a visit to meet their new in-laws as a diversion to save Kevin's political career, and Barbara's marriage into a white, "traditional, wholesome" all-American family will give the Senator excellent PR material. Barbara phones Val in South Beach about the lies she has told her parents. Val convinces Armand to go along with the farce. Armand has the house redecorated in an austere manner, and begins remaking himself as an unassuming, conventional, heterosexual American male. He contacts Val's biological mother, Katherine Archer, and she agrees to join in the charade he is planning. Despite the changes to the house and Katherine's help, Armand realizes that Albert's outlandish, effeminate mannerisms will reveal the true nature of the Goldman household. Armand asks Albert not to be present for the dinner party that evening; Albert is offended and threatens to leave Armand. A compromise is reached where Albert will act as Val's uncle, but this soon falls apart when Albert cannot effectively pretend to be heterosexual. Another argument ensues and Albert locks himself in his bedroom. As the evening draws nearer, Agador, the Goldman's flamboyant gay housekeeper, has been made into a butler and chef for the evening, despite the fact that he cannot cook and never wears shoes. The Keeleys arrive at Armand's residence, but Katherine, who is to play Val's mother, ("Mrs. Coleman") is stuck in traffic. Kevin and Louise are worried that Armand's nervousness is because he has heard about the Jackson scandal and is uncomfortable having the Keeleys in his house. Suddenly, Albert emerges dressed as a middle-aged mother. Armand and Val are horrified, fearing that Katherine's arrival will destroy the illusion. Agador has prepared nothing for dinner but a bizarre soup containing shrimp and hard-boiled eggs. Despite the many challenges facing them, Armand, Val and Barbara all act the part and interact with Albert as "Mrs. Coleman". Before dinner, Louise notices that the soup bowls depict men in homoerotic poses in a classical Greek style. Armand insists that she is mistaken and promptly fills everyone's bowl with the soup before the Keeleys can take a closer look. The primary topic of conversation is politics and, despite many potential pitfalls, Albert wins over the Senator with a very right-wing tirade on the moral collapse of American society. Louise is still suspicious: the dinner was terrible and Armand kept leaving the table. Kevin defends Albert as a true lady and remarks that Armand is just a "pretentious European". Val leaves a note for Katherine on the front door, informing her not to come inside, but two paparazzi photographers, hoping for a scoop, remove the note. Katherine arrives and introduces herself as "Mrs. Goldman". Kevin demands to know why there are two Mrs. Colemans; Val realizes that he cannot keep lying and pulls off Albert's wig, explaining to the Keeleys that while Katherine is his biological mother, Albert is his primary mother figure. Kevin and Louise are taken aback upon learning that Albert and Armand are gay Jewish nightclub owners. Louise breaks down and Kevin announces that they are leaving and demands that Barbara come with them, but the Keeleys have been followed by paparazzi and are trapped as news crews arrive. The Goldmans, Keeleys, Katherine and Agador consider the best plan of action. Val and Barbara explain why they deceived Kevin and Louise and are forgiven, but the Keeleys fear being tangled up in a scandal if spotted in a gay nightclub. Albert choreographs the Keeleys' escape by dressing them up in drag and having them leave the club as the night's show ends. The plan works and none of the media crews recognize Kevin, Louise or Barbara. The group leaves South Beach with Katherine. Val and Barbara are married in an interfaith ceremony attended by their families.