Three to Tango

USA 1999

Reviewed by Kay Dickinson


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Chicago, the present. Oscar and Peter are two architects pitching to win a large contract from tycoon Charles. Having been deliberately misled by Oscar and Peter's business rivals, Charles wrongly assumes Oscar is gay. He asks Oscar to attend a private view featuring the work of his mistress Amy and report back on any would-be suitors she might be attracting. There, Amy invites Oscar to a party; they spend the rest of the night together and grow close.

The next day, Charles tells Amy that Oscar is gay. He then asks Oscar to continue spying on Amy, hinting that his refusal to do so will result in his losing the contract. Amy moves in with Oscar, ignorant of his attraction to her. At a party unveiling the bids for Charles' contract, Oscar discovers he's won the title of "Gay Professional Man of the Year". After being introduced to Charles' wife, Amy leaves, distraught. Oscar follows her. They nearly kiss, but she runs away. She resurfaces while Oscar is on stage to receive his award; during his speech, he admits he's straight and confesses his feelings for Amy. She storms out; Charles withdraws his previous offer of the contract. Oscar and Amy resolve their differences and Charles' wife insists that Oscar and Peter get the job back.


Three to Tango is a romantic comedy which revolves around a case of mistaken sexual identity - despite falling for the insufferably kooky Amy, architect Oscar has to pretend he's gay throughout in order to win a big business contract. To their credit, director Damon Santostefano (whose past credits include the horror film Severed Ties) and screenwriters Rodney Vacarro and Aline Brosh McKenna use this premise to mock the surface-level liberalism of their straight characters. The supposedly tolerant Oscar, for instance, finds the gayness that has been wrongly thrust upon him too much to handle; tycoon Charles is keen to flaunt his business connection with Oscar to win liberal kudos. But for all its well-meaning attempts at satire, the film's own attitude towards homosexuality proves as muddled as Oscar's. Most obviously, in having to hammer home for less cognisant audience members which men in the story really are gay, the film resorts to some limp-wristed caricatures (notably, the effeminate, gossipy guests who attend Peter's dinner party).

The finale - which sees Oscar out himself as straight, while on stage to collect his "Gay Professional Man of the Year" award - feels like a typical Hollywood fudge. In his acceptance speech, Oscar makes an analogy between being in the closet and his inability to tell Amy that he loves her. But aside from momentary embarrassment, his public declaration of love has no lasting negative side effects. His bravery here is of a far lesser order than that of the gay members of his audience when they came out. The facile nature of Oscar's uncomplicated promotion of sexual honesty is brought home in a particularly obnoxious cutaway to Oscar's father. Having reacted furiously to news that his son was gay, he glows with joy on hearing Oscar is straight once more.

This said, when the film sticks to what romantic comedy does best - wryly prolonging unrequited heterosexual love and bouncing indefatigably between one-liners - it's enormously likeable. For once Matthew Perry - whose performance in The Whole Nine Yards seemed to have been delivered by rote - has landed an appropriate film role as the "passionate, sincere goofball" Oscar. With his many cartoonish pratfalls captured by fluid, elasticated camerawork (his character wreaks havoc when left alone in Amy's kitchen with only a champagne bottle to hand; a dodgy sandwich provokes a bout of severe vomiting during his first night out with her), Perry's performance neatly plays on the physical and sexual awkwardness he brought to the role of Chandler in Friends. And for all its failure to comment intelligently on the intricacies of sexual identity, Three to Tango does at least offer a touch more wish-fulfilment for Friends fans who like to imagine that Chandler and Joey share more than just a flat.


Damon Santostefano
Bobby Newmyer
Jeffrey Silver
Bettina Sofia Viviano
Rodney Vacarro
Aline Brosh McKenna
Rodney Vacarro
Director of Photography
Walt Lloyd
Stephen Semel
Production Designer
David Nichols
Graeme Revell
©Warner Bros. (US, Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda)
©Village Roadshow Films (BVI) Limited([all other territories)
Production Companies
Warner Bros. presents in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and
Village-Hoyts Film Partnership an Outlaw Production
Executive Producers
Lawrence B. Abramson
Bruce Berman
John M. Eckert
Keri Selig
Associate Producer
Susan E. Novick
Production Co-ordinator
Vair MacPhee
Unit Production Manager
John M. Eckert
Location Manager
Dorigen Fode
Assistant Directors
Bill Spahic
Rick Kush
Rose Tedesco
Malve Petersmann
Dameon Clarke
Script Supervisor
Daniela Saioni
Marion Dougherty
Douglas Wright
Diane Kerbel
Camera Operator
Christopher Tammaro
Visual Effects
Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc
Special Effects
Martin Malivoire
Jason Board
Brendhan Donaghy
Model Builders
Backbone Special Effects, Inc
JS Models Arch. & Eng.
Art Director
Vlasta Svoboda
Set Decorator
Enrico A. Campana
Marian Wihak
Key Scenic Artist
Derek Stephenson
Costume Designer
Vicki Graef
Wardrobe Supervisor
Laurie Munday
Key Make-up
Marilyn Terry
Key Hair
Veronica Ciandre
Titles Design
Pacific Title/Mirage
End Titles Sequence Consultant
Eric Heimbold
Tim Simonec
Tim Simonec
Michael Harrington
Steve Zuckerman
Music Supervisor
John Houlihan
Music Editors
Ashley Revell
John LaSalandra
E. Gedney Webb
Music Scoring Mixer
John Kurlander
Music Score Programmer
Dave Russo
"Jumpin' East of Java", "I Wanna Rock a/k/a (Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone" - The Brian Setzer Orchestra; "Sanctuary" - Blair; "Peter Gunn Theme" - Jack Costanzo & His Orchestra; "Go Tell the Preacher" - Mighty Blue Kings; "Pao de açucar" - Daniel Indart Quartet; "Bottlecap" - Kacy Crowley; "Let's Get It On" - Marvin Gaye; "Mr. Zoot Suit" - The Flying Neutrinos; "Hot Blooded" - Neve Campbell; "Violent Love" - Indigo Swing; "Maddest Kind of Love", "Jumpin' Jack" - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy; "It's Not Your Fault" - CIV; "Trou macacq" - Squirrel Nut Zippers; "Goin' Out of My Head" - Michael Dees; "Swing Sweet Pussycat" - The Atomic Fireballs; "Salt in My Wounds" - Shemekia Copeland; "That Says It All" - Duncan Sheik; "Here Comes the Snake" - Cherry Poppin' Daddies; "(Theme from) Bonanza"; "Brazil"; theme from "Of Human Bondage"; "By the Light of the Silvery Moon"
Sound Mixer
Peter Shewchuk
Re-recording Mixers
Rick Alexander
Christian Minkler
Supervising Sound Editor
Michael Kirchberger
Dialogue Editors
Richard Quinn
David Bergad
Sound Effects Editor
Jennifer Ware
Thomas O'Connell
Suzanne Fox
Jeff Watts
George Berndt
Margie O'Malley
Marnie Moore
Frank Rinella
Glass Blowing Consultants
Daniel Crichton
Robert Hilts
Architectural Consultant
Betty Wong
Stunt Co-ordinator
Shane Cardwell
Film Extract
Of Human Bondage (1964)
Matthew Perry
Oscar Novak
Neve Campbell
Amy Post
Dylan McDermott
Charles Newman
Oliver Platt
Peter Steinberg
Cylk Cozart
Kevin Cartwright
John C. McGinley
Bob Balaban
Deborah Rush
Kelly Rowan
Olivia Newman
Rick Gomez
Patrick Van Horn
David Ramsey
Kent Staines
gallery owner
Ho Chow
Michael Proudfoot
diner waiter
Shaun Smyth
Robin Brûlé
Brett Heard
Les Porter
Andrew Dolha
Ned Vukovic
Peter's friends
Keith Kemps
Lowell Conrad
dinner guests
Rumina Abadjieva
reception guest
Lindsey Connell
newspaper reporter
Katherine Steen
beautiful girl
Steve Richard
weight lifter
Stephanie Belding
Ray Kahnert
Sven van de Ven
meeting leader
Glen Peloso
business man
Barbara Gordon
Jenny Novak
Roger Dunn
Edward Novak
Meredith McGeachie
Marni Thompson
Deborah Pollitt
Anais Granofsky
Amy's girlfriends
Ed Sahely
Lindsay Leese
Tom Forrest
kissed guy
Barbara Radecki
TV reporter
Shemekia Copeland
blues singer
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
8,848 feet
98 minutes 19 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
In Colour
Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011