Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Birdcage

This post is brought to you by my Lifespan Psychology class. The assignment was to watch a movie and relate it to the themes we had been studying in class. When I saw that The Birdcage was on the list I of course picked it. I love that movie! Albert is just hilarious, so of course I chose to focus on him for my paper. I am posting the entire paper below, I hope that you enjoy it!

            Albert is an older man who is having anxiety over his many roles in his life and his satisfaction with his life. His partner Armand owns a club where Albert is the headlining act (as a female impersonator named Starina. Albert struggles with being the star of the show, becoming hysterical in the opening scene insisting that he is too old and fat to go onstage and perform. When Armand arrives to calm Albert/Starina down Albert begins acting worse until Armand threatens to send someone else onstage. Albert calms down, but argues with Armand accusing him of cheating, and demands a palimony agreement so that he isn’t left with nothing if Armand dies or leaves him.
            Starina (Albert) finally goes onstage and we meet Albert and Armand’s son Val. Val seems closer to Armand, and has arrived to inform him of his upcoming marriage. Later Albert rushes to the apartment above the club he shares with Armand and hopes to catch him cheating, and seems disappointed that he doesn’t. Armand informs Albert of their son’s upcoming marriage, and Albert becomes hysterical.
            We see Albert in the role of a parent the next morning as he tells Val that he is too young to be married and asks him to wait. Albert is more of the “mother” figure to Armand as the father, and Val seems to dismiss everything Albert says. We see Albert’s love for his son as he looks through a baby book later sobbing over the fact that his son has grown up.
            Val’s fiancé Barbara Keely comes from a conservative family and their daughter marring the son of a gay couple would not be agreeable to them so she lies to them about Val’s family. Barbara has lied to her parents even to the point of telling them the wrong last name to hide the fact that her fiancé comes from a Jewish family. She changes their last name from Goldman to Coleman. Barbara’s father is a Senator in the middle of a scandal, and they decide to avoid the press by visiting Val’s family.
            Val asks his father Armand to hide the fact that he is gay and convince Albert to go away for the weekend so that he can impress his fiancé’s family the Keelys. Albert agrees but shows Val his disappointment of him for asking this of his family.
            Armand attempts to manipulate Albert into leaving town but his attempts end up making Albert distrustful, and feel like Armand doesn’t want him around. When Armand finally explains the situation Albert is very upset and hurt by the fact that he is being excluded and from this important event in his son’s life. Armand feels bad about excluding Albert and attempts to teach him to be manlier so they can try to pass him off as an uncle to the Keely family. Albert loves Val immensely and wants this to go well and agrees to leave town, but Armand changes his mind and tells Albert he can stay.
            Val’s next request causes even more pain to Albert. Val asks his father to convince his biological mother to join them for dinner. Val feels like Albert is obviously gay, and that Armand would look less gay if he had a mother figure to introduce to the Keely family. Armand goes to visit Katherine, Val’s biological mother, and she agrees, but Albert becomes upset and feels that Armand was flirting with Katherine.
            Albert has been hurt many times by this point, and doesn’t feel like he belongs in his own home or family anymore due to all of the expected changes to please the Keely family. Albert has reached his breaking point and attempts to leave Armand, feeling everyone would just be better off without him. Albert has been arguing with Armand during key points in the movie, demanding that he be given a palimony agreement by Armand. Without this agreement he feels vulnerable, and Albert feels that this agreement would prove that Armand loves and trusts him. When Albert threatens to leave and seems serious about doing so, Armand finally produces the agreement for Albert.
            To me is seemed like Armand was saving this agreement for the moment when Albert’s antics reached a serious point. Throughout the film Albert was constantly trying to get Armand to show him his love, or prove it in some way. Albert constantly fought to have all attention on him, and have people fawning over him, but his true goal seemed to be to get this from Armand.
            Albert is very pleased when he receives the palimony agreement, because it is more than expected, instead of the property and the club being half his and going to him fully after Armand’s death, the property and club belongs solely to Albert, proving that all along Armand has cared about him in a way he hadn’t seen.
            Albert becomes upset again upon returning home and discovering that Katherine is still coming to dinner and he hides in his bedroom. The Keelys arrive and things are very tense. Armand is struggling to act straight and lie to the Keely family. Katherine is late, and things are just not going well.
            Albert arrives to save the day when he shows up dressed as a woman and introduces himself as Val’s mother. The Keely family loves Albert and accepts them. Eventually the Keely family discovers the lies. Albert is again shown his worth to someone as Val stands up and identifies Albert as his real mother over Katherine. The Keely family is upset but when they attempt to leave, they discover that the press has tracked them down. They escape the press by dressing up as female impersonators and escaping with the crowd from the club at the end of the night. This seems to bond them with the Goldman family and they accept their daughter’s relationship and upcoming marriage.
            Albert seems to be struggling with life satisfaction and role strain. Albert has many roles to fill in his life that of mother, wife, star and meeting his own needs. He has reached an age where he is reflecting on his life and deciding whether it has lived up to his expectations.
Albert is having a hard time finding his place and balancing the roles of being the wife figure, mother figure, and stage star at the club. He constantly seeks validation from everyone around him, constantly resorting to manipulation and hysterics to make everyone prove their need for him. He doesn’t feel important so he makes everyone around him show how important he is to them. This movie shows Val ignore Albert in his role as a mother several times, and dismiss his worth and even demand that Albert be sent away during this very important time in his son’s life. If Val is so willing to do this during an important point in his life it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for the viewer to believe that Albert has valid concerns over his worth in his family’s life.
            I believe in the end of the movie Albert has shown his worth to his family, and they in turn have shown Albert how much he means to them as well. The movie ends on a good note with Albert firmly in place as the Mother of the groom sobbing in the pew as his son gets married. Val’s biological mother is at the wedding too, but not sitting with the rest of Val’s family, showing that Albert is his rightful mother.
            Albert began the movie reflecting on where he was in his life. He was due to go onstage and be the star of the show for Armand, but he is upset and worried about his ability to perform perfectly for Armand, and worried that he has become too old and too fat to carry the show. No attempts to tell Albert otherwise are successful. Only when Armand stops feeding into the hysterics and threatens to replace Albert does he finally get angry and decide to prove that he is the only one who can do it. Albert feels like his life hasn’t turned out the way he wanted because he feels like he has been standing by as the wife while Armand built a successful club and that none of that belongs to him. He wants validation in his life.
            He eventually gets the validation he needs when Armand confesses that the club has always been in his name and that his club and his life would be nothing if Albert wasn’t a part of it. Later in the movie after many sleights by him, Val finally stands up and declares that Albert is his real mother, and he is proud of that. These events finally give Albert the validation that he needs to know that he has a satisfactory life. 

Thanks for reading!

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