Norman…Is That You?
(out of 5)
Redd Foxx leaves Tucson and shows up at his son’s Los Angeles apartment unannounced, shocked by what he finds: a man in his boy’s bed! Grappling with the news that his son is gay, Foxx goes on a soul search that includes buying a stack of books from a local bookstore and hiring a prostitute (Tamara Dobson) to put his son on the right path. He also has to deal with the reason he showed up in the first place, that his wife (a divine Pearl Bailey) has left him for his brother, while son Michael Warren takes comfort in the arms of his best friend Vernee Watson for what I assume is a challenge to his identity but which is never actually addressed. This lightweight adaptation of the Broadway play has a sitcom television look and feel, right down to the no-fourth-wall set; Foxx is terrific and delivers his funniest lines with finesse, but the multi-camera filming (done to save money) looks subpar and the script, in trying to be sensitive to all viewpoints, is mediocre and lacks dramatic power. As is often the case with films that pretend to have gay characters at their centre (Happy Birthday Gemini comes to mind), it’s actually about straight people dealing with their issues of tolerance while gay people sit in the background, rarely getting to explore their own fears and desires (like the fact that Warren’s relationship with Dennis Dugan hits a crisis that is also not really dealt with).
Listen to BGM’s episode on Norman…Is That You?
Directed by George Schlatter
Cinematography by Gayne Rescher
Produced by George Schlatter
Music by William Goldstein
Production Design by Stephen Myles Berger
Costume Design by Michael Travis
Film Editing by George Folsey Jr.