You don’t see many gay flicks in the theaters these days — even in the arthouse-oriented ones — but two titles managed to find their way onto screens nationwide recently, both diving deeply into the tricky waters of gay parenting and child custody. The nearly-three-hour In the Family scored almost unanimous acclaim in the latter half of 2012; it’s an understated story about a man who loses his partner in a car accident and goes to court with the deceased’s sister for the right to raise the former couple’s young son.
Any Day Now, by contrast, is melodramatic and ham-fisted, starring one of the biggest hams of them all: Alan Cumming (Burlesque, the Spy Kids franchise). He plays the role of Rudy, a broke singer who performs in drag at a West Hollywood bar — and isn’t above fellating admirers in their cars after his shift, like attorney Paul (Garret Dillahunt). When Rudy takes in Marco (Isaac Leyva), the neglected, Down’s Syndrome-afflicted son of his junkie prostitute neighbor (while dodging a child protective services officer), he pleads with Paul to help him gain custody of — and ultimately save — Marco. In 2013, this would be a challenge. But in 1980, it’s all but impossible. Closeted, pragmatic Paul tries to check Ryan’s unwavering idealism, and this only compounds the building tension of the film, which recalls 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer down to the sideburns.
Cliches, heavy-handed messages, indulgent heartstring-pulling and bad torch numbers abound. And it takes a suspension of disbelief to buy the accelerated events that has the new couple gaining temporary custody of a special-needs boy. (Director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom’s sweeping screenplay is nonetheless inspired by a true story.) But shrouding that implausibility is Cumming’s performance; he fearlessly portrays Rudy as a stubborn but big-hearted humanist. Ditto for Dillahunt, whose silent-soldier Paul does everything right despite a legal system clearly biased against him and his lover. As this issue remains relevant, a movie like Any Day Know remains resonant.