Friday 29 June 2018

Ideal Home (2018) - Movie Review

The plot: Celebrity chef Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and his producer and partner Paul (Paul Rudd) have their lives interrupted when a child (Jack Gore) arrives at their front door claiming to be Erasmus' grandson. As they struggle to accommodate the new arrival, and each other, Erasmus and Paul find themselves in a reluctant but eventually warming position of being the two dads of the child. Whether they want to stay this way remains to be seen.

If someone tried to construct an artificial life form made of pure camp, it’d look a lot like Coogan’s performance here. He hits all the right flamboyant and bombastic notes you would want out of a TV chef, but while he allows for a couple humanising moments, he mainly sticks to bickering and ear-scraping pompousness as his character. Opposite him, Rudd is a bloody lifesaver, making for a much-needed source of grounding for the majority of the film. Even though he isn’t an exception to the rule of camp, his is at least of a brand that makes for palatable viewing… mostly. His remark that Coogan’s smile makes him look mentally handicapped is a truckload’s worth of cringe.
Gore as the child in this equation is largely a non-entity as far as performance goes, meaning that he almost-always recedes into the background while Coogan and Rudd take over. With how often I point out good child actors on this blog, that’s more than a little disappointing. Jake McDorman as the kid's father fits into the troubled dad archetype without any room for a unique or even engaging personality, making the main conceit of the film less about legality and more about trying to keep the audience awake, and Alison Pill only just improves over her turn in Drag Me To Hell with her work here. Barely.

So, this is a comedy… apparently. I say that because not only are there way too many dud jokes for that to be accurate, the tone of this thing is all over the place. It keeps pushing the sheer fact that our two lead characters are gay as comedy, letting the flaming and overtly-articulate delivery be the joke without anything added on top. Not only that, writer/director Andrew Fleming (The Craft, Hamlet 2) seems to be under the impression that a couple who do little more than argue with each other all the time is the height of comedy, given that he never reaches for anything beyond that. Given how this script came about, the mental image of a bickering gay couple, that makes some degree of sense but it would have helped if it went further than lurching, hideously unnatural tonal shifts in-between all of the prancing.
It’s a narrative involving toxic parental figures, drug dealing and TV show deals, and yet the melange that all of those ingredients are thrown into doesn’t seem to have been made with any degree of care or even taste. I mean, when the end credits are comprised of pictures of same-sex couples with their babies, it feels like Fleming and co. are rather impotently trying to make the case that these narcissistic and loud man-children are good parents… even though there’s quite a bit to argue against that.

Then again, there’s no point getting into the specifics of the plot; the plot as a whole is so amazingly tired, I’m surprised the movie didn’t come with its own snooze button. Stop me if this sounds familiar: A child, after being separated from their parent, is left with a seemingly-incapable caregiver. They initially hate the fact that they’re left with a child, but as time goes on, they start to feel attachment to the child and feel comfortable with the idea of being their parent. And then, around the point of the third act, their birth parent comes back and tries to take custody of the child again, which causes problems for our now-attached caregiver.

No spoiler tag for that paragraph, because I was actually giving a quick summary of the 1999 Adam Sandler film Big Daddy. Not that you’d be able to tell the difference because that’s how textbook this plot is. Not only that, even with that basic-as-fuck framework to build on, little to nothing actually happens in this movie. Every bit of specific detail, from the kid’s name to his progress in school to the eventual connection made between him and Erasmus/Paul, even the oh-so-delightful third-act separation feels like an afterthought. For a story this cut-and-dry, it seemingly isn’t able to do the bare minimum with the setup, even with Erasmus actually being a blood relative to the kid. In the rare moments of him and Beau talking with each other, it’s hard to believe that these people had even met before those scenes, let alone being literally related to each other. Yeah, I get that that’s part of the point with the estranged son angle Fleming went with here, but even that much is too tall an order.

Of course, all of this is dancing (or, rather, mincing) around what is probably this film’s biggest issue: Its depiction of gay characters. This feels like 90’s-era sitcom writing in how it's treated, with dialogue about as nuanced as Jim Carrey’s overconfident gay man from In Living Colour. Subtlety is not this film’s strong suit, clearly, but there’s a point where the flamboyancy goes from being loud and proud to loud and possibly misguided. I mean, when you reach the point of showing a framed picture of Erasmus, Paul and Liza Minnelli, within minutes of the film starting by the way, this reeks of a relic from a bygone era. One where face-value depictions were more important than being realistic, since the latter required acknowledging that the former even exists to begin with. One where there was no problem with casting straight actors to play LGBT characters because authenticity was the furthest thing from people’s minds. One where gay characters were included in stories more for aesthetic, 'queer is quirky' purposes than anything resembling humanity.

This isn’t helped by how the film is supposedly about parenthood, and yet we spend more time with our characters arguing with each other than interacting in any way with the child. Maybe if this film had a decent sense of humour, an ounce of wit, a pinch of self-awareness, or even a dash of genuine heart, I could overlook that. Then again, without those ingredients, it’s kind of difficult not to notice the blatantly obvious.

All in all, not since The Shack have I actively felt the need to pace around the cinema while watching a movie, just so I can vent my frustrations. The acting is good in places but not nearly good enough to salvage anything, the visuals are about the level you would expect from a DOP mostly known for filming Tyler Perry movies, the comedy is pin-drop levels of awkward, and its depiction of gay characters leaves a fair bit to be desired. I am quite miserable after having sat through this thing, and I’m hardly surprised that my screening was as much of a ghost town as it was.

1 comment:

  1. Wow thanks for saving me the dollars and time needed to see this flick, I love the line prison is more homely! Ever thought of videoing yourself reading these reviews? I think you’d be great.