A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 277 – La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles – December 2nd, 2010

While I’ve seen the American remake of this movie several times I had never seen the original before today. Silly, really, but the American version is on television fairly regularly and I honestly couldn’t say when I last saw the original’s title pop up in my channel guide. I’d always heard good things about it but never got around to seeing it. But when we went to buy The Birdcage to watch for National Coming Out Day we found that it came in a two disc set with the original, so we bought that and then we watched the remake and stuck the box back on our shelf and didn’t put in the original right away. Until tonight.

I’ve got to say, overall? I’m really rather impressed with the remake having now seen the original. It’s not just that the plot is kept very close, it’s everything. The plot here really is quite similar. Renato Baldi is the owner of a drag club in St. Tropez. The star act is his companion of 20 years, Albin. And Renato’s son, Laurent, has gotten engaged to a very nice young woman named Andrea whose parents happen to be ultra conservative and involved in politics. When a political scandal rocks the conservative party, Andrea’s parents decide a nice wedding would be the perfect distraction, so off they go to meet Laurent’s parents. The bulk of the movie revolves around Renato and Laurent trying to figure out how to pass the family off as acceptable to Andrea’s parents. Albin, being super flamboyant by nature, can’t be there, but how do you tell him that without hurting him? If you’ve seen the American version, it’s the same basic concept. And being a farce, there is obviously a totally ridiculous and over-the-top solution: Albin dresses in drag and passes himself off as Laurent’s mother.

I’m serious when I say that they stuck close to the plot and script in the remake. Yes, the location was changed and there are definitely differences, but there are more similarities, down to the pink socks Albin wears when he puts on a suit in hopes of claiming to be Laurent’s uncle. The conversation about cemeteries? There. The giant crucifix in the living room? There. The butler not wearing shoes because they make him fall down? Yup. Though Jacob, the butler in this one? His hotpants are considerably more sparkly. But really, it’s all so very closely adhered to, it was great to see how the original did everything. Having seen the American version first, I don’t think I can really speak to one being better than the other. I’m biased. I just think it’s really fantastic that so much of what I loved about the remake is right out of the original.

Now, this movie does suffer a little when it comes to period. It’s dated. The clothes, the music, the hair, it all screams 1970s. But it ends up not mattering. The story is still about a family trying to put on this impossible act so that their son can be happy. It’s still got outrageous physical humor and all the comedy that comes from Albin trying to charm the Charriers. It’s got some great touching scenes between Albin and Renato and that made me very happy. The story itself plays out well regardless of the decade it’s set in and the performances from the entire main cast are all fantastic to watch.

My one real quibble with the movie is that it’s incredibly negative towards the women in it. Renato repeatedly and casually calls Laurent’s fiancee a whore when Laurent tells him he’s engaged. Perhaps I’m missing some cultural cues, but when the lines about Andrea “stealing” Laurent away are spoken, they feel a little more serious, a little more nasty, as opposed to joking. And then there’s Laurent’s mother. Not only did she abandon Laurent, leading to Albin disliking her intensely to start with, but she actively tries to seduce Renato when they meet. She’s not welcome in the family at all. I’m not sure I like that dynamic so much. It adds a tone of true discord to the plot that I felt took away from the humor inherent in everything else. There’s already so much conflict, from Renato and Albin over whether Albin can stay for the future in-laws’ arrival, to the frantic attempts not to have conflict between Laurent’s family and Andrea’s. Adding in a serious conflict between Albin, Renato and Laurent’s mother? It’s too much for me. There’s no real time to spend on it, so it feels wasted anyhow.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this. I expected that I would, but it’s nice to be proven right in that respect. The similarities were all fantastic. The differences, I’d have to say, were a mixed bag. I loved things like the bowl Renato keeps his keys in, and Jacob’s sequined hotpants, but I disliked the casual misogyny and one unexpected bit of violence. But they weren’t so very egregious that they ruined the movie for me. There’s too much great humor here. Too many fun performances and good scenes.

December 2, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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