A man questioning his own sexuality does not seem like the ideal topic for a comedy. But with a good script, and plenty of humor, In & Out tackles this touchy subject matter with aplomb.
Howard Brackett is the high school english teacher in the small town of Green Leaf, Indiana. Things are going great for Howard: he’s inspirational to his students, a former pupil, Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), is up for an Academy Award, and he is about to end his long engagement by marrying fellow teacher Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack).
However, his life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when Cameron wins the Oscar. Having portrayed a gay soldier, Cameron thanks the influential gay men in his life, naming Howard as his chief source of inspiration. Naturally this greatly distresses the soon-to-be-married Howard, and puts the entire town of Green Leaf in upheaval.
Howard denies the claim, but there are many people who have to be convinced: his parents (Debbie Reynolds and Wilford Brimley), the school principal (Bob Newhart), and his previously adoring students. To top it off, the announcement has sparked a media frenzy with hundreds of reporters descending upon the small burg (including Tom Selleck as Inside Entertainment anchor Peter Malloy).
This film could have easily slipped from lighthearted comedy into heavy handed melodrama. And though it flirts occassionally in that direction, Paul Rudnick’s sharp script thankfully returns often to its satire and humorous wit. Although some of its jabs are at obvious targets, the numerous sleights at popular culture provide a constant source of hillarity.
The script is backed up by a overall strong cast. Kevin Kline carries the lead role well, mixing both physical comedy and verbal banter. And although all of the cast does a good job, the standout is the always reliable Joan Cusack. Her acute distress at her fiance’s sexual confusion is a delight to watch.
It takes just a little bit for director Frank Oz to get the film off the ground. The opening montage of the happy goings on in Green Leaf aren’t all that interesting by themselves, and don’t quite work as small town satire. However, once the outing occurs, and accusations begin to fly, the film takes off. The film’s centerpiece, the “Be A Man” self help tape, is a comic gem.
But on the whole, In & Out is a entertaining comedy regarding a delicate subject matter. Sure, it has a few missteps here and there, but never falters, thanks to a strong cast and an even stronger script.