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Closet Classic

In & Out
Andy Schwartz

Cram Session: Outed Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) does a little background research on the male mystique in Frank Oz's 'In & Out.'

Kevin Kline leads an ensemble cast 'In & Out' of a modern screwball comedy

By Richard von Busack

FROM THE BEGINNING of In & Out, a near-classic comedy directed by Frank Oz and written by Paul Rudnick, it's apparent that we're in a fantasy land. We visit the too-perfect Indiana town of Greenleaf with its sycamores and millponds, with its prosperous Main Street that never heard of Wal-Mart. Production designer Ken Adam makes all of the above look desirable instead of stodgy. In the high school, in which the students are untouched by the visions of urban crime, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), the last of the bow-tie-wearing, white-soxed English teachers, prods a class of obedient students through Shakespeare. But the students are restless; tonight is the Academy Awards, and Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), who attended Greenleaf High, is up for the best-actor Oscar against such stiff competition as Paul Newman (for Coot) and Clint Eastwood (for Codger). Drake wins and thanks "my agent and my new agent" and his English teacher, Brackett, "who is gay."

Outed in front of millions, Brackett, who is three days away from his marriage, is in a frenzy of denial. Previously, the only clue to his sexual preference was a perhaps too-fervent worship of Barbra Streisand. He's guilty, in other words, but circumstances make him a hero. While Kline gets more mileage out of a deer-in-the-headlights gaze than most people can get out of a Toyota, In & Out is an ensemble comedy that cuts away to the peripheral characters, tops the gags and tops them again.


Richard von Busack talks to screenwriter Paul Rudnick.


Leading the supporting cast is Tom Selleck, without the mustache and with his hairline raised (plastic surgery?), as a TV reporter with a double agenda. Bob Newhart, funnier as he grows more decrepit, is a malevolent tortoise of a principal. Joan Cusack plays Kline's fiancée; her stilted, V-shaped smile is mirrored in the plunging neckline of the wedding dress she wears through most of the film. Cusack dons a comic Midwestern accent--Gloria Grahame playing Ado Annie in Oklahoma. Pleasingly, hers is not a harridan part; she yields to an absolutely delightful and surprising moment of Romeo and Juliet at night in the middle of a country road.

The high spirits and gentleness are underscored by Kline's own skills as a genial screwballer. This screwball classicism is also seen in Dillon, who really ought to be doing more comedy. His Cameron begins as a dumb movie star complete with a blond dye job, goatee and attenuated girlfriend (played by a scary supermodel named Sholom Harlow); he ends as a deus ex machina who fixes everything by descending to Indiana. A few bumpy scenes don't impede the comedy much. What I liked was Rudnick's faith that show business is doing something to ease homophobia, although evidence for this may be sketchy. Still, In & Out is a comedy that shows some faith in the goodness of human nature, a faith that every little bit must somehow help. The film's spirit is as refreshing as its jokes.

In & Out (PG-13; 90 min.), directed by Frank Oz, written by Paul Rudnick, photographed by Rob Hahn and starring Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck.

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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