Tom Hanks’ tear-stained Oscar speech for Philadelphia was the inspiration for this liberal comedy, sealing Kline’s reputation. The small town of Greenleaf, Indiana, gathers together to watch Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) win an Academy Award. In his fulsome speech the actor thanks his teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), inadvertently outing him as gay.
Brackett and his fiancee Emily (Joan Cusack) are unprepared for the result: a media invasion aimed at unearthing the truth. With no help from his mother Berniece (Debbie Reynolds), Howard protests his heterosexuality, but friends and family grow unconvinced when anecdotes of his cleanliness and devotion to Barbra Streisand are recounted.
Reporter Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) wants to showcase Howard in a series of news programmes, discovering a veiled threat to sack the aggrieved teacher if the rumours are proven. The two men meet, and Malloy reveals his own homosexuality. They kiss. Confused and lonely, Brackett seeks solace in a self-help tape on masculinity. Emily counts down to the marriage, and the world’s media prepares to join them down the aisle…
‘I need a wedding, Howard,’ screams the majestic Reynolds at her hapless son. ‘I need beauty, music, and some placecards before I die. It’s like heroin.’ The frenetic tone is maintained by Rudnick’s gutsy script and Oz’s satirical instinct, exemplified by the film-within-a-film, To Serve and Protect, a ludicrously solemn drama about a gay soldier which wins Drake his gong.
Selleck was targeted by an outing campaign in the early 1990s (Jodie Foster was another victim), and his casting here is a deliciously ambiguous rebuttal of rumour. The chemistry with Kline is hilarious, with the set-piece routines displaying impeccable timing amid the Spartacus tributes and Streisand worship.
USA | 90 minutes | 1997
Director: Frank Oz
Script: Paul Rudnick,
Kevin Kline as Howard Brackett
Joan Cusack as Emily Montgomery
Tom Selleck as Peter Malloy
Matt Dillon as Cameron Drake
Debbie Reynolds as Berniece Brackett
Wilford Brimley as Frank Brackett
Bob Newhart as Tom Halliwell
Gregory Jbara as Walter Brackett
Shalom Harlow as Sonya
Shawn Hatosy as Jack
Zak Orth as Mike
Lauren Ambrose as Vicky
Deborah Rush as Ava Blazer
June Squibb as Cousin Gretchen
Alice Drummond as Aunt Susan
Alexandra Holden as Meredith
Glenn Close as Herself
Selma Blair as Cousin Linda
Whoopi Goldberg as Whoopi Goldberg (uncredited)
Bill Camp as Bachelor Party Guest
Lauren Ward as Student
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