Three to Tango Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

You've made a big gay bed, and now you must slumber gayly in it!
Three to Tango logo

Oscar Novak (Matthew Perry of TV's "Friends") and Peter Steinberg (Oliver Platt of "Bulworth") are two starving architects with an opportunity to land the biggest deal of their careers, a $90 million cultural center for slimy Chicago tycoon Charles Newman (Dylan McDermott of TV's "The Practice"). As one of two firms bidding for the project, Novak and Oscar and Peter face some stiff competition from the well-heeled architectural firm of Decker and Strauss.

I want you to stay close to her... tell me who she talks to... that sort of thing.
Oliver Platt, Dylan McDermott, and Matthew Perry

However, an opportunity for currying favor with the would-be boss comes to light-- Charles is under the mistaken impression that Oscar is gay, and he gives the starving architect the additional task of keeping tabs on his mistress, Amy (Neve Campbell of "Scream" and "Wild Things"). At first, Oscar's attempt at covert surveillance is an utter failure, with Amy seeing through his ruse, yet the headstrong artist is able to forgive her would-be spy and finds herself strangely attracted to him, despite his purported sexual orientation. As their friendship develops, Oscar finds himself increasingly head-over-heels in love with Amy, yet he is obligated to remain 'out of the closet' to safeguard his chances of winning Charles' business.

Champagne, music, Amy in a Kimono... I swear, Oscar, if you weren't gay, I'd have to kill you.
Gay...? I'm not gay...
Neve Campbell

To further complicate matters, word of Oscar's 'gayness' spreads throughout the city via Charles' well-oiled public relations machine, and before he realizes it, Oscar has become the most famous gay person in Chicago by being named 'gay professional of the year'. With people recognizing him for what he isn't, and his feelings for Amy growing stronger every day, Oscar finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the deception. Will he stay the course and land the biggest deal of his career, or will he set the record straight to win the woman of his dreams?

Everyone thinks I'm gay!

Though Rodney Vaccaro's script makes good use of Oscar's predicament as an analogy to the difficulties of 'staying in the closet', "Three to Tango" is still your average romantic-comedy with an upbeat soundtrack and a few amusing moments thrown in. The premise of mistaken sexual orientation and conflicting sexual identity has been done before with much more humorous and thought-provoking results, such as in Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet", the low-budget "I Think I Do", the charming yet vacuous "Object of My Affection", Kevin Smith's "Chasing Amy", and the more recent "Happy, Texas". In this case, the comic situations Oscar finds himself caught in are mildly amusing at best and fairly predictable, while the thematic undercurrent of the story is yet another take on the old adage of friendship being the basis of true love. The net result is a decent, but not spectacular, time-waster.

Have you ever kissed a woman?
Not the right one.

Cast-wise, director Damon Santostefano has assembled a fetching group of actors for his film. As the film's beleaguered hero, Perry is perfectly cast, bringing the right blend of confusion and charm to his character. Campbell is equally charismatic as Perry's love interest, and despite a shallowly written character, it is easy to forgive Amy's foibles in light of the enthusiasm and vigor Campbell brings to the role. McDermott, known to audiences best as the ultra-suave and dedicated Bobby Donnell on "The Practice", effectively uses his dark brooding good looks and blunt mannerisms to paint Charles as an oily and self-absorbed womanizer. Finally, Platt, as the story's true gay architect, manages to hold his own with a few memorable scenes.

"Three to Tango" is hardly new or original, and is more on par with something middle-of-the-road like "Picture Perfect" than "My Best Friend's Wedding". With a few memorable moments and the type of things you would expect from a 'mistaken sexual orientation' type premise, "Three to Tango" might appeal to some moviegoers with its light humor and good-looking cast. But if you are in the mood for a romantic comedy that has both humor and insight in abundance, look elsewhere.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. All rights reserved.

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