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The Birdcage
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Synopsis for
The Birdcage (1996) More at IMDbPro »

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The film opens with a performance at the Birdcage, a nightclub situated in South Beach, Miami. The club is owned by Armand Goldman, a gay Jew in a relationship with the club's star Albert, who performs as a drag queen. Armand's son Val returns from college with an announcement: he is getting married to a schoolmate, Barbara Keeley, whose father Kevin Keeley is a conservative politician from Ohio who founded the Coalition for Moral Order, and who is seeking reelection. The problem is that Barbara hid the truth from her parents - she informed them that Val's father is a cultural attach for Greece and that Val's mother is a housewife, and that their last name was Coleman.

The Keeleys, meanwhile, are in the midst of their own crisis: Keeley's co-founder for the Coalition, Senator Jackson, died of a heart attack while in bed with an underage black prostitute. This event makes headlines, and gets the Keeleys swamped with hordes of reporters and threatens to ruin their political position. Kevins wife Louise proposes that they go to see Val's parents, who they believe are a traditional wholesome family, as a double measure to both avoid the reporters and to restore their impeccable public image. They set off, but are being tracked by a couple of reporters, who are themselves tracked by competing reporters...

Val begs his father to go along with the charade, and after some deliberation he concedes. They both set to work remodeling their apartment into a more austere and simple home, and dress up the flamboyant gay manservant Agador as a butler/cook. Less simple is asking Albert for support; an effeminate, temperamental and sensitive partner, he is offended at Armand and Val asking him to be absent due to his obvious gayness, and when he tries to act like a heterosexual he fails miserably. With no other choices, Armand and Val decide to call upon Val's birthmother Katherine, a former showgirl who left Val with Armand and ran off to become a businesswoman. Asking Katherine is the last straw for Albert and he decides to go to a cemetery; Armand calms him down and reaffirms their devotion by giving him partnership of the Birdcage.

The Keeleys arrive, and the night starts off fairly well, with only a few hiccups. Unfortunately, Katherine, who was supposed to join the party, gets stuck in traffic. Unexpectedly Albert dresses up as a woman and takes her place, to the horror of Armand and Val; bizarrely his masquerade works successfully and Kevin is even smitten with Mrs Coleman and her liberalness, much to Louise's indignation. However, both Kevin and Louise start to suspect that the Colemans are hiding something, especially when they are served an awful mishmash soup made of all sorts of ingredients (including hardboiled eggs), and notice that the plates hold pictures of men in disturbing poses...

Katherine finally arrives, and everything falls apart: Kevin and Louise find out that Val's parents are gay Jewish nightclub owners, and they decide to leave immediately. But they discover a mass of news crews outside who tracked them down, and duck back in. Although the Keeleys have warmed up to their in-laws, they are now trapped inside and for them to appear in the presence of such people would finish their political careers. Albert hits on a brilliant scheme: he dresses the Keeleys up in drag and gives an impromptu performance, and as the show goes on Katherine successfully gets the Keeleys out of the Birdcage without any interception from reporters.

The film ends with Val and Barbara getting married, in an interfaith ceremony presided by both a rabbi and priest, attended by Kevin and Louise, Katherine and Armand and Albert.


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