Two men who had announced that they were gay activists sat stone-faced near me while a preview audience hooted at this comedy knockout starring an inspired Kevin Kline as an Indiana high school English teacher who gets outed at the Oscars by a Best Actor winner and former student (Matt Dillon). The men objected to what they saw as the gay stereotyping of Kline’s Howard Brackett, who wears prissy bow ties, notices window treatments and worships Barbra Streisand. They missed the point. The butt of the hilarious and heartfelt screenplay by Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey) is homophobia, and his sting is wickedly on target.
Edward has been lying to his parents (Debbie Reynolds and Wilford Brimley), his principal (Bob New-hart), his fiancee (the incomparable Joan Cusack in peak form, which is saying something) and himself. At his bachelor party, the flustered Howard nearly denies his love for Streisand, until one lout yells the words that stiffen his back: “She was too old for Yentl.” Howard’s meeting with a gay TV journalist, Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck stops the show in a hilarious, career-reviving role), also strikes sparks when their initial sparring ends in a . . . well, we’ll save the erotic surprises.
Rudnick’s outrageous wit blends nicely with the easy-does-it direction of Frank Oz. Kline and Cusack have never been funnier, and Dillon’s film-within-a-film take on an actor portraying a gay soldier uproariously skewers the pious Hollywood platitudes that pass as searing drama. Everything from the Oscars to sexual hypocrisy takes its lumps in In and Out. Against Rudnick’s heroic brand of liberating fun, even political correctness cannot stand.