Greenleaf is a beautiful and idyllic small town. Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is an English teacher at the local high school. He is also involved with the drama club and coaches the boy’s basketball team. He loves being a teacher and his students adore him. In a week, he will be getting married to the woman he has been engaged to for three years.
Cameron Drake (a former student of Howard’s) is an actor who has just won his first Oscar, for portraying a gay soldier. In his acceptance speech he dedicates the award to Howard. Unfortunately, he also outs Howard as gay, which is news to Howard. Of course the whole town was watching the awards show, which makes the next day rather interesting for him.
Howard insists that he isn’t gay, but that doesn’t stop the gossip and speculation around town. Reporters, looking to spin a story about him also swarm Greenleaf. Even Jay Leno makes jokes about him on TV. Howard’s life as he knows it starts to crumble. The principal at the high school basically tells him if he doesn’t go through with his wedding (thus proving he’s not gay) he will be fired.
There are many wonderful actors in this movie, but Kevin Kline totally owns it. He is such a natural. When I watch him I always get this sense of honesty from him, that I am seeing actual emotion (not acting). Even in the goofier moments he brings a sense of realism to them.
Even though this movie is a comedy with many funny moments, there is still some heart there. You see Howard trying to come to terms with what is happening to him and re-assessing the way he lives his life. Emily finding out that even though she lost a lot of weight, she is still the same insecure person she has always been, just thinner. Howard’s students struggle with the idea that their teacher might be gay and are unsure how they feel about it and how to act around him.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Berniece – “I need that wedding. I need some beauty and some music and some place cards before I die. It’s like heroin.”
Howard – “Romantic. Poetry. Shakespeare. Talented. English. Dead.”
Vicky – “Were you like incredibly embarrassed? Did you just wanna stick a grenade in your mouth?”
Mike – “and he goes, “smart, clean, totally decent human being … gay!”
Tom – “I tried to reason with them. I told them I was the principal and they … they mocked me.”
Meredith – “It just happened ’cause Mr. Brackett likes poetry and Shakespeare and uses his napkin.”
Howard – “This is my Peter … friend Peter, we just ran into each other at the intersexual … homosection … intersection.”
Emily – “Thank God my parents are dead. This would have killed them.”
Frank – “That Barbara Streisand … did she do something to you?”
Cameron – “Go eat something. I’m begging you. You look like a swizzle stick.”
Emily – “I’ve seen all your movies.”
Cameron – “Both of them?”
Following is additional information about the movie that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
I adore the scene when Howard is doing the “Exploring Your Masculinity” cassette tape. Kevin is wonderful in it and it is so funny how the tape taunts him and talks back to him. I especially like it when he just can’t control himself anymore and just has to dance.
Another great scene is during the wedding. When the minister is performing the ceremony you can see the sudden realization on Howard’s face. When he finally accepts who he is and the fact that he is indeed gay and admits it in front of everyone.
I was happy that Cameron took responsibility for the bombshell he dropped at the awards ceremony. When he hears what is happening to Howard he immediately heads back to his old hometown to help sort it out.