Three to Tango

(Damon Santostefano, USA, 1999)


This is a one-joke – or rather one-complication – film.

The complication is this: Oscar (Matthew Perry) finds it helps along his architectural employment prospects if he pretends to be gay like his work partner, Peter (Oliver Platt). Suddenly, the whole world thinks Oscar is gay – it's even in the newspapers.

Oscar manages this masquerade until it impacts directly upon his love life. His new employer, Charles (Dylan McDermott), asks him to be a watchdog over perky, young Amy (Neve Campbell). Soon Oscar is every girl's best gay friend, but nobody's lover.

In & Out (1997) started a vogue for vaguely gay comedies designed for ultra-straight audiences. These films both mildly titillate and massively reassure their target market: they preach that gayness is a lot of fun, but not catching. The climactic scene where Oscar steps on stage to accept a special award from the gay community is, in this respect, truly mind-boggling.

Most romantic comedies of recent years have looked to the '40s for their retro-style, but Three to Tango at least has the savvy to plunder the '50s.

The amusing design concepts recall Frank Tashlin's gaudy satires from that era, while Platt faintly recaptures the merry urbanity of Clifton Webb. Perry and Campbell, unfortunately, still exhibit their repertoire of charmless, television-customised mannerisms.

MORE gay comedies for straights: Connie and Carla, To Wong Foo, Strange Bedfellows

© Adrian Martin December 1999

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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