What attracts us to the movie theatre on Friday nights? Is it the commercials we see? Or is it all the gossip we hear from friends and TV talk shows? Well for many, it is the critiques we read and hear almost every day. One who specializes in the professional evaluation and appreciation of literary or artistic works is a critic. The profession of movie criticism is one of much diversity. Reviews range anywhere from phenomenal to average. Not only are movies created for the entertainment and sheer pleasure of the audience, they create a market of jobs and open doors to the world of financial growth. The success of these films, whether they are tremendous or atrocious, is not only dependent of the actual film, but also upon the critic’s reviews. It is a form of assistant advertising, in addition to commercials and billboards. A movie review is composed of summaries, plots, controversial issues, perks, and detriments. They discuss the features of the movie and certain points that appeals to the critic. Not to forget that the sole purpose of writing these reviews is to persuade the reader to take on a pre-opinionated view of the film prior to viewing it. In addition, they hope the reader enjoys their style to further persuade them, as well as others, to persist in reading their reviews.
Based on a corroboration of the three critics, Hinson, Howe, and Berardinelli, there is one basic overview of the movie The Birdcage. For some twenty years, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) have lived together as husband and wife (so to speak). Both are openly gay, and seemingly comfortable with their sexuality. They are partners in business where Armand operates a drag nightclub and Albert is the star performer. They have a son, Val (Dan Futterman), the product of Armand’s one-night rendezvous twenty-one years ago with big-time executive Katherine Archer (Christine Baranski). As far as his upbringing is concerned, Val is as much Albert’s son as Armand’s, and he is not ashamed of his unusual family situation, at least not in the normal course of things. Things go awry when Val becomes engaged to the 18-year old daughter of Senator Keeley (Gene Hackman), the co-founder of the Coalition for Moral Order who believes that Billy Graham is too liberal. Since there is no chance that Keeley would sanction a marriage between his daughter and the son of a gay couple, Val pleads with his father to pretend to be straight, if only for one night. The result of this, as might be expected, is a hilarious disaster full of outstanding performances. Robin Williams, despite his reputation for unfettered mania, is surprisingly restrained throughout most of The Birdcage, doing a little serious acting along the way. Nathan Lane, playing the effeminate Albert, is the real star, whether he’s trying to swagger like John Wayne to act “manly” or costumed like a housewife. Gene Hackman has the straight man’s role, into which he fits wonderfully. The only role that is over-the-top is Hank Azania as Aggedor, the houseboy for Armand and Albert. The film is so entertaining that it is easy for the unsuspecting viewer not to realize its hidden message. The structure of The Birdcage is designed to show us that there isn’t much difference between conservatives and liberals, and on that note, straight and gay people.
Hal Hinson, a movie critic of The Washington Post, best describes The Birdcage as “a movie of many laughs.” In the review titled “The Birdcage: A Wingding of a Show,” Hinson describes in great detail the setting and plot of this movie, and makes it clear that is what the reader is looking for. However, it is quite clear that he has made the assumption the reader has not yet seen the film. He also assumes that the audience has even the slightest sense of humor. The movie is presented as one for almost any age and for people whom are quite liberal in their views. He goes further to explain the situation the actors are in and what troubles, even as actors, they have to overcome. He praises their superb work in portraying their characters. A major part of this film is the two distinguishably different families trying to deal with each other’s differences, in this case sexuality. One side illustrates a very conservative family and, on the other hand, lies an essentially homosexual family. Homosexuality is generally a dangerous subject to depict due to its many touchy sides. The critic, however, held no bias on this topic, and leaned more towards the point of the movie’s exceptional humor and quality. Hinson is a wonderful critic in the way that he presented this film. Had the movie not been so fantastic, most of his readers would still make it a must to see it. Using his descriptive and concise manner, evidently he held the reader in mind when composing this review. Hinson also informs the reader that the film makers’ point in creating this movie had been to make a stunning and shocking remake of the old French film La Cage aux Folles. This movie was a mega blockbuster, and unquestionably loved by all.
In Howe’s review of The Birdcage, unlike Hinson, he apparently assumes that his audience has a general knowledge of movies and a sense for first-rate comedies. Since most people presumably have not seen the movie, Howe gives a short description of the plot and characters which helps draw in the reader. By doing this, he is exposing the audience to the outrageous plot, which guarantees an excellent flick. Most of his readers are generally looking for an overview of the movie and actors to suit their curiosity and to acquire a general sense of the movie. This plays a huge part in the reader’s choice to see the movie. The reader also is looking for the opinion of the writer to help aid in their interest towards the movie. Howe goes on to say how he loves all the gags in the movie and his astonishment by the performances of the cast, especially those of Nathan Lane and Hank Azaria. Howe definitely enjoyed the film and foretells so as to most people will as well. Howe does not feel a need to persuade his readers to see this movie, however. He feels the outrageous plot is enough to entice an audience. Howe generally comes off as a witty writer, who after enjoying a movie is able to aid in its success by presenting good praise.
Unlike the other two reviews, the evaluation of The Birdcage by James Berardinelli does not take on a particular side of the film. This critic just states the facts, without going into great detail. He makes the assumption that the reader knows something about the movie. His type of review stands mediocre among the other two. He does not make it evident that this movie is a must-see, however he does state that it would be a delightful movie to watch on a cold winter’s weekend by the fire. A major difference about Berardinelli’s critique in respect to the other two accounts is that this one did not find some of the homosexual extremities funny, and made a point to say so. In his description he mentioned the issue of the two very different families and their situation, simultaneously keeping a neutral outlook. Yet he made sure, just as the other two critics, to inform the reader of the gay and transsexual issue in the movie, and the frequency of this joke. Berardinelli also mentions how outstanding the setup of the costumes and choreography is. Surprisingly, he is not the kind of critic a reader looking for a rating on a movie would like. However, Berardinelli does do a wonderful job for those readers who want a brief summary and overview of the film.
The Birdcage, a movie for all to enjoy, was portrayed as such by all three critics. As awkward the “gay” situation may seem, The Birdcage takes on a light-hearted approach to make an audience laugh, not speculate. My personal feelings on the movie were similar if not the same to the ones of the three critics. They did not alter my opinion towards the movie in any way; they only informed me of those specifics I had not yet known. One point stands out in my mind the most, and that is the very informative quality of these critiques. One fact that I did learn from these reviews that I was not aware of beforehand is the movie’s basis, which is the older French film, La cage aux Folles. Although the reviews were good in nature, I feel the film deserved more appreciation and acknowledgement than what the critics gave them. If I had to choose to read any of the critics’ reviews for a second time, I would most definitely choose Hal Hinson. He without doubt gave the finest description of the movie that truly grasped the reader’s attention, not to mention he would have sold me a ticket opening night. In general, all three critiques possessed their own authenticity and style, which in turn is the source of the critic’s reputation.