Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Any Day Now (Film Festival) (Rhoades)

Alan Cumming’s
Film Promises
“Any Day Now”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You may not have realized it, watching Alan Cumming play a tough-minded political strategist on TV’s “The Good Wife,” but he looks good in a dress.
In “Any Day Now” – one of the entries in this week’s Key West Film Festival – Cumming portrays a down-on-his-luck drag queen who, along with his new lover, fights to parent a throwaway kid afflicted with Down syndrome.
“Nobody wants a short, fat, mentally handicapped kid,” we’re told. But Rudy and Paul do.
“What you see is what you get,” warns a doctor who examines the boy.
But these two coming-together guys see a smiling 14-year-old who “didn’t ask to be born to a junkie, didn’t ask to be different, didn’t ask for none of this.”
And when Family Services tries to take the boy away from this gay couple, they fight back in the courts. After all, Paul is an assistant district attorney who studied law hoping to change the world.
It’s all about Marco. Despite being handicapped, he’s a sweet kid who loves chocolate donuts and stories with a happy ending.
But this takes place in 1979 when gay parenting was frowned on in California and most other places. And remember, this movie is “based on a true story.”
“This was so impossible in the 1970s – and, more recently, I’ve had two sets of friends who have run into problems,” says Cumming, an activist at heart.
“Any Day Now” was co-written and directed by Travis Fine. An actor who once gave up show biz to become an airlines pilot, this is his seventh outing as a director – and finally he may have struck gold.
Fine says, “I’m a straight guy who lives in the suburbs with three quote-unquote normal kids in a cul-de-sac, so what’s my connection and why did I care about telling this story? I really wanted to tell a story – not necessarily about gay rights or gay adoption – but about people who have love to give. And why should we stop anybody from giving or receiving love? Losing love is not necessarily a gay issue; it’s a human issue.”
The original screenplay was written back in the late ’70s. “A writer named George Arthur Bloom knew this guy Rudy who lived in the neighborhood over on Atlantic Avenue here in Brooklyn and who kinda looked after this kid, and he was inspired enough to write this story about this character Rudy. We sort of took that script and rehabbed it, rebuilt it, as you would an old house, and brought it up to the story I wanted to tell. A story that would ultimately move people and also at the same time make a bit of a statement about who should be allowed to determine who’s allowed to love.”
Alan Cumming points to a couple who invested in “Any Day Now.” The same sex couple sued the state of Florida to allow them to adopt the kids they had been fostering for many years and won the case. Cumming says they were on the set a lot with the kids. He calls them “incredibly inspiring.”
However, this film hits even closer to home.
Always tackling difficult subjects, Key West’s Anne O’Shea acted as an executive producer for “Any Day Now.” As you will recall, she’s already helped bring movies to the screen about sperm donors and lesbian couples and whistleblowers and divorce.
Anne has a cameo as Mrs. Lowell.
What’s more, La Te Da’s Randy Roberts has a nice role in “Any Day Now” as a performer known as PJ.
But this is Alan Cumming’s movie. His star power shines as he camps about in a flamboyant drag show, sings torch songs in a nightclub, rages about social injustices in a courtroom, and cries over a little boy lost. As a T-shirt he wears in the movie proclaims: Great Performer. Yes, his portrayal of Rudy Donatello is Oscar-worthy.
“A part like this comes along once in a lifetime,” notes Cumming. “It challenged me as an actor – and I got to sing in it. To be in a movie that’s about something is so important – and I feel so personally connected to this.”
He adds, “Bring your hankies, it’s really intense."
Co-star Garrett Dillahunt is properly conflicted as Paul Fleiger, the assistant DA who’s afraid of “kicking open the closet door.” With his mop of hair and seventies wardrobe, he has to come to terms with his sexuality while fighting against a gay-biased court system.
You’ve seen Dillahunt in everything from “No Country for Old Men” to TV’s “Raising Hope,” “Winter’s Bone” to TV’s “Burn Notice,” “Looper” to TV’s “Memphis Beat.” But here his role cries for a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Nevertheless, the cast member who steals the show is young Isaac Leyva, a real-life Down syndrome kid who tugs at your heart with his wide swooping smile, subtle shift of his eyes behind oversized glasses, and a waddling gait while clutching the blondie doll that he’s named Ashley.
Travis Fine says Isaac was “exceptional to work with.” The director adds, “He very much gets what’s going on around him.”
Alan Cumming calls the boy “amazing.” “Working with Isaac, his joy or despair or anything he was feeling was completely on the surface and completely in the moment. It was a child-like thing. And I think acting should be like that.”
Why would a drag queen step up to the plate for an abandoned handicapped kid? “He’s got a sense that Marco is an outsider, just as he is,” says Cumming. “He recognizes him as someone who is being pushed aside and that’s something he responds to. He’s got a strong sense of what’s right, of decency.”
Alan Cumming identified with his role. “So much of me is in this movie. It’s rare that I get the chance to let my actual personality come through. When I smile with Isaac, that’s actually very close to me. I mean, you always look like you – but for your spirit to be able to come through is rare. I didn’t realize how much it had come through until I saw the film.”
Something of a gay icon, Scottish-born Alan Cumming has played everything from the androgynous Emcee in Broadway’s revival of “Cabaret” to Hamlet and Macbeth on stage to villains in the “X-Men” and “Spy Kids” movies.
“Families can come in different shapes and sizes and different genders, the most important thing is making the child feel safe and secure,” observes Cumming. “Whatever that version of the family is, that should be respected, there is a political and social message that I hope people come away with.”
Adoption by same-sex parents is still illegal in almost a dozen American states.

No comments: