In & Out (1997) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A midwestern teacher questions his sexuality after a former student makes a comment about him at the Academy Awards.

  • All of Greenleaf, Indiana is watching this year's telecast of the Oscars as Hollywood heartthrob and local boy made good Cameron Drake has been nominated for his first ever Best Actor Oscar for his latest movie role as a gay soldier. Cameron's high school English teacher Howard Brackett is overjoyed when Cameron wins the award and mentions Howard's contribution in his acting life. That joy turns to horror when Cameron mentions to the worldwide audience that Howard is gay, especially horrific to Howard as he is engaged to fellow teacher Emily Montgomery, a woman with self-esteem issues as she had battled weight issues most of her life before she lost seventy-five pounds for the wedding. Howard's life is totally disrupted as Hollywood media descends on Greenleaf in order to get Howard's story. The rest of Greenleaf also openly wonders if Howard is indeed gay, as he exhibits many stereotypical gay tendencies, such as being neat, and loving music, dancing, poetry and Barbra Streisand. His cause is not helped in that his and Emily's relationship has not yet been consummated. The one person not concerned is Emily, who trusts Howard. As Howard continues to deny being gay to his family, friends and colleagues, he begins to examine himself hypercritically if only because if others believe he's gay, there may be some merit to the claim, as well as because of an incident that occurs with Hollywood reporter Peter Malloy, who is doing a week-long piece on Howard leading up to his and Emily's wedding. But Cameron Drake may be able to provide some overall perspective to what is happening to Howard and the frenzy he has caused.

  • Howard Brackett is a high school teacher in a small town in Indiana with everything going for him; a nice job, an attractive fiancé named Emily and respect from everyone. Everything changes in one night when a former high school student of his, named Cameron Drake, now a famous actor living in Hollywood, makes an acceptance speech after receiving an Academy Award for his portrayal of a homosexual army soldier and 'outs' Howard Brackett as his inspiration for his role. The media circus immediately begins as Howard desperately tries keep his life from falling apart by protesting that he is not gay and that the whole thing with Cameron's speech is a simple misunderstanding. While most of the townspeople want to believe Howard, Peter Malloy, an openly gay TV reporter who arrives in town to cover the story, suspects that the teacher is in denial.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is a well-liked English literature teacher, living a quiet life in Greenleaf, Indiana, with his fiancée and fellow teacher Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack). The town is filled with anticipation over the nomination of Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), Brackett's former student, in the Best Actor category at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of a gay soldier in the war film 'To Serve and Protect'. Cameron does indeed win the Best Actor award, and in his acceptance speech, thanks Howard for his inspiration by adding: "and he's gay!"

    Howard's parents (Debbie Reynolds and Wilford Brimley), his cousins (Gregory Jbara, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Alice Drummond, Selma Blair), and friends (Debra Monk, Ernie Sabella, Joseph Maher, William Duell), fellow students (Shawn Hatosy, Zak Orth, Lauren Ambrose, Alexandra Holden), plus co-workers (Lewis J. Stadlen, Deborah Rush, Kevin Chamberlin), and fiancée are naturally shocked, but that is nothing compared to Howard's own reaction of disbelief and indignation, and he angrily tries to reassure those who know him that he is a heterosexual. The very next day reporters from all over the country invade his hometown, harassing him for interviews following the awards night telecast, and Howard is placed under the scrutiny of his boss, Principal Halliwell (Bob Newhart), who is uncomfortable with the attention being brought to the school.

    Although the other reporters leave over the next few days after getting their story when Howard tells them that he is not gay and the whole thing with Cameron's speach is a simple misunderstanding, one reporter stays behind. He is the openly gay Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck), who wants to wait the week out so he can cover Howard's wedding to Emily. Howard continues to be harassed and dismayed by the changed attitudes of everyone around him, and decides that he must sleep with Emily in order to prove his heterosexuality. Howard tries, but cannot go through with it all the way due to his conflicting emotions and Emily's concern for his well-being.

    Howard crosses paths with Peter, who tries to provide a helpful ear and narrates his own experience in coming out to his family. Peter thinks that Howard is in denial of his sexual orientation and wants him to be honest with not only himself, but everyone. Howard still insists that he is not gay, prompting Peter to kiss him. Although shocked, Howard reacts somewhat positively to the kiss, vindicating Peter's instinct all along on the matter. Peter tells Howard that if he still wants to get married (to a woman) Peter will not stop him, but he also tells Howard that he is hiding the true fact of who he is.

    Howard's final measure to restore his heterosexuality is the use of a self-help audio cassette, although that fails as well. During the wedding ceremony, Emily recites her vow without hesitation, but when Howard is prompted by the minister, he instead says, "I'm gay." The wedding is off, and although Peter is proud of Howard, Howard is angry with himself for hurting Emily. Things take a turn for the worse when he is fired from the school because of his outing.

    Despite being fired, Howard attends the graduation ceremony to support his students. When one student (Shawn Hatosy) who got into college with Howard's hard work, learns that he was dismissed for being gay, he and his classmates proclaim themselves, one by one, to be gay as well, to show their support of Howard and to thumb their noses at the school board. Howard's family follows suit, as do his friends, and all the townsfolk assembled.

    Having learned of the ensuing media blitz while in Los Angeles, Cameron Drake flies to his hometown, with his supermodel girlfriend (Shalom Harlow), to support his former teacher and although Howard doesn't win 'Teacher Of The Year', Cameron presents him with his Oscar as a gift.

    The film ends with Howard's wedding-crazy mother finally getting a wedding - her own, when she and her husband decide to renew their vows. Howard, Peter and the rest of the townsfolk attend the reception, and among the crowd are Emily and Cameron Drake, who appear to have begun a relationship. The film ends with everyone dancing to the Village People's song "Macho Man".

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