Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here's the saddest part about the fact I only now got around to seeing The Birdcage: it played for something like an entire calendar year at the Oldham 8 during its original theatrical run. In all that time, I never once managed to go to a single showing of it. I can't say there was any particular reason, either. I wasn't avoiding it. I've liked very little of Robin Williams's screen work but that wasn't such a deterrent in 1996.
Generally, I have a problem with stories where the conflict revolves around someone having to pretend to be someone he or she isn't - or to pretend not to be who he or she really is. Part of that is that I have a philosophical issue with such a masquerade and denial of self, and part of it is that the truth inevitably comes out in such stories anyway. The antics escalate until they feel contrived before yielding to a message of acceptance.
When it became apparent to me that was the primary plot of The Birdcage, I inwardly winced - particularly as it's a favorite film of the friend of mine who showed it to me. Surprisingly, though, I actually enjoyed it in spite of the fact it fell into the aforementioned traps that irk me. The manic energy of Nathan Lane helped to drive the film, and he had surprisingly likable chemistry with Williams. I must also admit that for once, I didn't find Williams gratingly over-the-top...though it's hard to be farther over the top than Lane, who does it without annoying me.
I often wanted to slap Val for his treatment of Armand and especially of Albert, particularly in light of the fact that his birth mother clearly had played no role whatsoever in his life. He really should have shown more acceptance and gratitude for his parents; at least enough to not try to hide them. Besides, did either he or Barbara give any thought to how they would manage the charade after the initial meeting? Particularly with her father the prominent politician under the microscope?
Typically, such observations detract from my ability to go along with a story but for a change I found it reflected how invested I was in the characters - primarily Albert, but also Armand. It bothered me to see them treated the way Val treated them, and any time I care enough about a character to be concerned about such things, that's a sign that a film did its job of properly engaging me.
How The Birdcage Entered My Flickchart
The Birdcage < How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days --> #1516
Both are centered on contrived situations. I cared more about Albert in The Birdcage than I cared for anyone in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but damn that Matthew McConaughey is charming!
The Birdcage > The Mummy's Hand --> #1144
Nathan Lane's manic performance as Albert was far more entertaining than anything about The Mummy's Hand.
The Birdcage > The Terminal --> #954
Typically, I pick Tom Hanks > Robin Williams, but here's a rare exception. The Terminal disappointed me whereas The Birdcage surprisingly won me over.
The Birdcage > Home Alone 2: Lost in New York --> #858
Both of these rely on contrived scenarios, but Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is so obviously recycled that I didn't even get into it much when it was new and I was 13. Easy win for The Birdcage here.
The Birdcage > Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone --> #811
Though Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a solid childhood romp, it lacks the intrigue of later films in the series. I'm going with The Birdcage here for Nathan Lane's fun performance.
The Birdcage < Clerks. --> #811
I liked and cared about Albert and Armand in The Birdcage but I *know* Dante and Randal. Hell, I probably *am* Dante and/or Randal.
The Birdcage < Three Kings --> #811
The Birdcage was fun, but so was Three Kings. I'm going with the latter this time, but could change my mind in the future.
The Birdcage > Driving Miss Daisy --> #804
Driving Miss Daisy makes white people feel good about themselves, whereas I think The Birdcage ultimately makes the LGBTQ community feel good about itself. Birdcage gets the nod.
The Birdcage > Artie Lange'sBeer League --> #801
Okay, I laughed more throughout Beer League than I care to admit but I also laughed throughout The Birdcage and I actually cared about its characters.
The Birdcage < Finding Forrester --> #801
Both films revolve around a familiar, contrived premise. However much I liked Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, though, I was more impressed by Rob Brown in Finding Forrester.
The Birdcage entered my Flickchart at #801/1525