Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 08 September 1997

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN


Video Review by Warren Arronchic


 

This is a very funny movie. If Gore Vidal persists by saying there's no such thing as a "gay sensibility" he should be handcuffed to a chair to watch Waiting for Guffman, a comedy that's got nothing to do with gayness, but which reflects what can best be touted as an explosion of gay sensibility in all its multifaceted and wildly peculiar magnificence.

The setting for such a far-reaching explosion is Small Town America, or Blaine, Missouri, a proud locale where residents are gearing up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the town's settlement. The principal character is named Corky St. Clair, and he's the high school drama coach, returned to Blaine after years in Manhattan attempting unsuccessfully to make his mark on the elusive Broadway stage.

Corky is the epitome of the stereotype. If Christopher Guest, the brilliant actor who portrays him isn't gay himself, this reviewer will go back to the drawing board for a re-think on reality. Guest also co-writes and directs Waiting for Guffman.

The film's slogan gives sly hints as to its themes: "There's a good reason some talent remains undiscovered," say the movie posters.

If you've ever climbed upon the stage yourself, if there's a bit of a soft spot in your heart for regional theatre, if you have ever admired your high school drama teacher, or if you've hung out in small town scenes, you'll thrill at the opportunity offered here to observe Corky St. Clair's continuing quest to get out of Blaine and return in triumph to Broadway.

Yup, he's counting on his carefully chosen cast for Blaine's anniversary event--titled "Red, White & Blaine" to put him back where he's sure he belongs: dancing on the Broadway stage, utilizing his mindboggling talents for maximum crowds. The Blaine cast, which provides running reflections--in near documentary form--about how they see themselves and their dramatic endeavors, are quite lovable too, each in their small-town ways. There is nothing judgmental in this movie's treatment of dumb locals, which is part of its charming genius.

Eugene Levy, of Second City fame, co-authored this movie with Guest and he plays a near-sighted dentist turned thespian trooper. Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Fred Willard and Bob Balaban co-star as his bright-lights-here-we-come-believers, all conscripted at a telling audition where Corky presides. What happens thereafter is a piece of history about which no one can afford to remain ignorant.

The gayest flashes in this film, if such they can be called (and it could be argued that they are incidental, which they are) are only three in number. In one scene Corky, rehearsing a dance number, jumps unaffectedly into the arms of a handsome young male he's conscripted from a local auto repair shop.

In another episode, he's shown in the act of conscription, innocently asking the hunk what time he gets off work so as to take part in "Red, White and Blaine." The stud's dad ambles closer to Corky to eye this poof whose interest in his son is, obviously, suspicious. Dad's eyes tell all, without a word being spoken.

Finally, there's the town resident who's babbling about Corky's wife-- a non-existent character who, she says, she's never seen. She suspects, however, that Corky gets little wifely attention due to the fact that he's told her he chooses his clothing without soliciting help.

Who is Guffman? He's the big time talent scout who is to be seated in the audience, and on whom Corky's hopes for future fame are pinned.

Corky St. Clair is the world's funniest and most loveable dingbat queen, a person so lacking in guile that he can't even curse effectively. "You are all just bastard-people," he tells the city council, "bastard- people." He threatens to go home and bite his pillow.

Entertainment Weekly calls Waiting for Guffman, "a madcap gem. As touching as it is hilarious." For anybody who dreams big, Corky's hapless hopes will spark instant identification. If he never makes it to Broadway, be sure, at least he'll find his way into your heart.

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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