Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 20 October 1997


Film Review by Leo Skir


I was alive, very young, but alive during the 40's, the Golden Age of Comedy, which was not a decade but two, and I and my brother Eugene, listened every week to Bob Hope, to Fred Allen, to Jack Benny, to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergman. And on screen we watched while Preston Surges and Frank Capra allowed America, small town to big city, to be enveloped not in a Whitmanesque hug but in a comfortable tea cozy of sentiment.

There are still echoes of that time and -- Tom Hanks, his persona, his career, still brings in this kind, generous, sentimentalization of America.

I was thinking of Mr. Hanks this evening, September 10, 1997, while waiting for a kind friend with a car to drive me to the suburb where In and Out was being previewed. I'd read a book about Tom Hanks by Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis in which there was a chapter about a film almost unknown now. Hanks had made it in Israel in 1986: Every Time We Say Goodbye. He'd done it with the idealism and enthusiasm which was later to go into Philadelphia (1993) -- about homosexuals -- and Forrest Gump (1994) about a retarded man. This now-forgotten film, hardly exhibited when it came out, was about the plight of a Jewish- Christian union in 1941 in mandated Palestine. Hanks felt for the Jews that same love and sympathy he felt for gays, for the retarded.

I, standing, waiting for the car to come, remembered his awkward acceptance speech for Philadelphia his noting the inspiration his gay teacher in high school had given him.

Then the car came. At the theatre I was "treated" to an In and Out that was a clever-cruel evocation of old-time classic just-us-folks-in-small-town comedy, with the naive Eddie-Bracken type being played by Kevin Kline and his harum-scarum Betty-Hutton-like soon-to-a-victim (remember Miracle of Morgan's Creek, 1944?) played by Joan Cusack.

But the genial soft-headed sentiment of Sturges and Capra (OK, it was a little moronic, but oh, G-d, it made us shiver and cry) is now replaced by scriptwriter super-smart-aleck Paul Rudnik, who is hobble-gobble-one-of-us upfront gay but

BUT: After letting us see Little Home Town where everyone idolizes homeboy now Hollywood super-star, he a onetime student of the local dippy English teacher still stuck teaching high school -- we switch to the night of the Academy Awards and

There's a very comic but really mean send-up of Tom Hanks' two big hits, Philadelphia and Forrest Gump -- bits shown on Award night: a send-up of the battle scene from Forrest Gump, the Legless Best Friend from Forrest Gump, the unfair discrimination against a Gay man from Philadelphia, all now made into a pastiche at the Awards for the applause of a roaring crowd, letting us all nod and smile and feel amused at how we've been tricked into gooey sentimentality about gays and cripples.

And then - we are -- in the movie -- watching Small Town people, Little People watching the Little Screen, see the Big Star (played by Matt Dillon) in Hollywood, making an acceptance speech which near-duplicates the one Tom Hanks made for Philadelphia. FUNNY? No, just mean, real mean. It ends with his giving credit to this high school teacher--telling the audience of millions the man was GAY.

Now the movie-proper begins. The man's still an English teacher in a provincial town, about to be married in three days.

And the movie centers on the man -- Kevin Kline's attempts to survive in Normal America: his fiancée's tribulations, his silly mother (Debbie Reynolds) needing to have that wedding; the reporter out to cover him completely (this is a family publication so I must be circumspect).

Note: that Academy Award bit might, if the man looked like Tom Hanks, be a cause for a liable suit, but--the man looks/acts/talks like a double of:--Brad Pitt!

It's obvious that scriptwriter Paul Rudnik does not like (a) Tom Hanks and his sentimental well-meaning movies (b) Philadelphia and (c) Forrest Gump. He also does not like (d) Brad Pitt.

If Mr. Rudnik doesn't watch himself he will see more people disliking Mr. Rudnik.

There's a real good joke lost in this film: the small town Americans being liberal-from-a-distance, seeing-liking "Cameron", the heterosexual actor playing a Gay Victim, but filled with fear and horror when one of Them -- a real homo-sexual, is there, in person.

Note: Doing a great job with a poor script: Bob Newhart as the high school principal Mr. Halliwell. When he has to get The Word ("homosexual") out of his mouth he's wonderful.

And of course this "comedy" is based on real sad/bad facts about life for Real Gays in the Real World.

This reviewer can remember from his high school childhood having a schoolmate flee from the toilet when he walked in. He can remember the air being thick with tension when he, at a beach party given at the beach-house of a female classmate, having to change into his bathing suit in the basement where one of her male visiting friends, also changing in the same room, made him feel an Unwelcome Intruder into the Male World.

Extra note: The movie gets better towards the end and there are two major scenes, a Revolution at Graduation and a Great Party when things get Better and we do (seeing everyone, reconciled, dancing together) remember the Great Golden Age of Radio/Film comedy, a time when we felt Brotherhood would Prevail.

A word of advise to super-sarcastic scripter Rudnik from Forrest Gump himself (as quoted by his creator, Winston Groom): "Don't be no Big Ass Pete."

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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