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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Birdcage (1996)

I still remember my parents coming home from seeing this in the theater. I really wanted to see it but of course I was not ready for it. They both assured me, in very different tones of voice, that I would probably love that movie when I was older. Boy were they right.


I had it committed to memory by college. Andy and I still randomly quote the wilder lines to each other, knowing exactly the beat that follows. BOB DOLE IS GORGEOUS. *surreptitious glance*


I'm so pleased that it holds up. It's still so kind and hilarious and, sadly, relevant. Right wing politicians are still scared and confused by the gays while they brush the fact that their underaged daughter has been having sex with a guy since she was 16 and he was 19. Vomit.


Christine Baranski refuses to age and I refuse to hate her for it.


Dianne Wiest is the unsung hero of the final act of the movie though I am mildly triggered by her theatrically sobbing "SOMEBODY HAS TO LIKE ME BEST."


I have deep fondness for Robin Williams in this movie. We always seem to remember him for his wildest moments and his stand up but he could be so beautifully reserved in film roles. Yes, he has some wacky moments in Birdcage ("TWYLA TWYLA TWYLA") but where he could have played it SUPER 1990s GAAAAAAAAY, he chose instead to play Armand as a man in a long-term relationship who still loves his partner, even and maybe especially through the harder moments. And he loves his son and would do anything for him. He shows up for him however he needs him to, even when it hurts. He's doing a tightrope act in this movie and wherever he is now, thank you, sir. I live in fear of the day I finally have to watch What Dreams May Come for this project because it wrecks me more than any other movie I've ever seen. (I must admit, I've drawn it twice so far but was not in the mental health I think I ought to be to watch it.)


And Hank Azaria. My god. For a man primarily making his checks for voice work, his physical comedy is maybe the best I've ever seen. I squealed a little when I saw this gif.


Those shoes are a full 1.5 inches longer that his foot and he kept them on through the fall. BRAVO.


But this movie has a villain and it's Val. What a piece of shit. From his shaaaaaaady relationship with Barbara (there's no way they last), to his manipulative flattery of his father, to the way he throws Albert over in a heartbeat for anything that makes Val's life conceivably easier. Neat. Super cool. Eat shit, Val.


Fun trivia Ben told me after we watched:

-Robin Williams was going to be Albert with Steve Martin as Armand and as much as I adore Steve Martin... Bullet dodged.

-Calista Flockhart was 30 when she filmed this, only 15 years younger than Diane Wiest. What.


"The Heibler? That's Art! (The Absolution of Val)"

Acrylic on canvas



Takeaways:

-Again I find myself saying, I'm really just glad it's finished. This one has sat on the floor of my studio/office for over a month, half finished, because I was so frustrated with how it was going. And I'm proud that when I finished it today in the course of an afternoon, I could ask myself finally, "Is it finished? Yes. There's more that I could do but there's always more that I could do. I could work a piece forever. But it has to be finished at some point."

-The idea of this was Albert in a play on the Kirby self-portrait they have over the mantel.

The pose struck me (it's one I've used before - Thor: Ragnarok) in particular. It's a religious gesture that implies a lot of things, but generally means a blessing/anointing. I see it and think of forgiveness. And wisdom. And I think that Albert has the wisdom (and compassion) to ultimately forgive Val. And I think that's the most beautiful thing about that drag queen.

-Hands are fucking hard, y'all. Fuck.

-Hahaha I have The Menu playing as I write this and clean my office before returning to work tomorrow and the Chef just said "We strive for perfection which of course does not exist and that is a hard truth for me so please forgive me." I see you Universe.

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