PLOT: A flamboyantly gay couple, made up of a small-time TV foodie (Steve Coogan) and his producer (Paul Rudd) inherit a young boy, and do their best to raise him, while the specter of their losing custody hovers over them.
REVIEW: Andrew Fleming gets my vote as one of the most underrated comedy writer-directors of his time. His HAMLET 2, to me anyways, ranks as one of the best comedies of the last decade, while his film, DICK, is also well-worth a revisit. So, when I heard he was re-teaming with Steve Coogan, and bringing the great Paul Rudd on-board to boot, I was psyched to see what he’d come up with.
Unfortunately, IDEAL HOME is not quite the gonzo dynamo HAMLET 2 was, being a far more conventional tale that aims to tug at the heartstrings just as much as it tickles the funny bone. Well, conventional in the sense that there’s no singing, time-traveling Jesus Christ in this one (although maybe there should have been???), perhaps unconventional in that it takes a familiar plot, that a childless couple inherits an unruly child, and gives it a gay perspective.
Apparently based on Fleming’s own experiences, here, Steve Coogan plays an aging gay man, who apparently had a one night stand with a woman thirty years ago, resulting in a son that he’s never really gotten to know. The boy, now a small-time crook and addict, has a son of his own, Bill (Jack Gore), and after an arrest, rather than see him placed in the system, he sends him to live with his estranged gay dad.
Enter Paul Rudd’s character, who, already exasperated with his prima-donna partner, finds himself the unwitting surrogate dad to a bratty, homophobic kid, who throws tantrums any time they suggest he eat anything but Taco Bell. Apparently, Rudd’s playing the Fleming surrogate, and he’s the heart of the film, being the more grounded half of the couple, and the one who has to take charge when they wind up with the kid. I’m sure I’m not spoiling anything when I say the two men grow to love the kid as their own, and find themselves fighting for custody by the third act.
It’s really the compassion of Rudd’s character, and his chemistry with Gore as the child, that makes the movie work. Rudd’s such a pro that he’s really able to perfectly convey his growing attachment to the kid. By contrast, Coogan gets the sillier part, with his widely effeminate foodie perhaps something of a stereotype, albeit one done with affection. While some may bristle at two straight men playing gay, Fleming himself is gay, and it’s based on his life – so really he can cast it however he wants.
The New Mexico setting (a holdover from HAMLET 2) also gives this an interesting vibe, while the bickering dialogue between Rudd and Coogan is the sharp-tongued Fleming at his best. If there’s a problem though, it’s that Coogan’s character never really feels three-dimensional. He always seems “on”, and you only really get a sense of his vulnerability towards the end, where it’s almost too late. Rudd’s character seems to be the one Fleming relates to the most, and it shows.
Likewise, Alison Pill, as the social worker attached to the case, is under-used. I would have liked to have seen more of her, but even in a tiny amount of screen time she conveys compassion, with her desire for the boy’s well-being challenged by the initial irresponsibility of the pair, which includes their massive gay porn collection, and party lifestyle. You’re with the two guys, but you also see her point, and believe it when she starts to come around.
While I’m not sure comedy-drama is as good a fit for Fleming as broad satire, it’s nice that he’s stretching, and he tells a worthwhile story. It didn’t always work for me, but the cast and sharp-dialogue makes it well-worth a watch. I guarantee this is one of the better VOD movies you’re likely to see this month.