Making the Grades
Howard (Kevin Kline) is a high school English teacher who, after a three year engagement, is about to marry Emily (Joan Cusack), another teacher. A few days before the wedding, the little community where they live is thrilled when Cameron (Matt Dillon), one of Howard and Emily's former students, wins an Oscar. But when Cameron thanks Howard in his acceptance speech and announces that Howard is gay, Howard, Emily, and the entire community are shocked, and Howard sets out to prove his masculinity.
Howard is a fastidious dresser, likes Barbara Streisand, poetry, and dancing -- suddenly all these traits seem indicative of his lack of "maleness." Looking for guidance, he visits a Catholic priest who advises him that having sex with a woman would prove he's not gay. Seeing as he hasn't had sex with a man either, Howard's predicament doesn't seem plausible, and instead he (and the audience) are victims of society's expectations.
However, this spoof about what makes a "real man" suddenly changes when Howard meets Peter (Tom Selleck), a gay reporter who gives Howard a passionate kiss in the hopes of making his decision easier. The script continues to trivialize the situation by comparing coming out to coming clean over a stolen recipe -- the consequences of which will be overcome in a day or two.
This is a serious story especially for teens who may base their own self image on their peers' opinions. Howard's wrestle with this huge life-changing decision is based on his taste in clothes, music, and the fallacy that he must be gay if he hasn't had sex with the woman he is about to marry. Young people struggling with this issue may have difficulty divorcing the screenplay from reality. Like Howard, they may consider a lifestyle change based on typical male/female traits or they may try to validate themselves by seeking sexual experience. Although the movie throws in a few funny moments, parents who are concerned about homosexual themes will not find the subject to be a laughing matter.