Ideal Home – movie reviewby James Robins
A camp Steve Coogan comes unstuck in a tale about the realities of gay parenting.
Let’s start with his name: Erasmus Brumble, which could be something out of either Dickens or Wodehouse. He is a TV chef of such elaborately camp flavour that one word from his warbling voice would make Hudson and Halls shiver in their tuxes. He lives in the Californian desert, so naturally has his cowboy boots and spurs engraved in his own image.
He shares an elaborate house with his partner Paul (Paul Rudd), and one night they’re shocked to find a 10-year-old boy on their doorstep. As it turns out, Brumble did some “experimenting” when he was younger, spawning a son, who in turn produced Angel (Jack Gore). Against all their wishes, they have to learn to parent this kid, who at one point unleashes the dreaded word “fag” on them.
Here’s the rub: Ideal Home is supposed to feel progressive in its portrayal of a male couple raising a young child, emphasising that gay families’ dynamics are no different from those of straight ones. Except that Andrew Fleming’s film runs through every darn cliché imaginable. It feels jaded, reductive and out-of-time. Asked if he’s shocked to find out he has a grandson, Erasmus says with a bent-wrist flourish, “It’s unbelievable. Look, I’ve had no work done!”
Despite all this, there’s still Rudd, who occasionally bends to these clichés, but otherwise provides a glimmer of genuine heart. There’s an earnestness and warmth in his eyes, so that when it comes time for him to realise that this squirt ain’t all bad, you really do buy it.
With a better script, and by pairing Rudd with someone other than Coogan, Ideal Home could have been a cheery, tender portrait of the realities of gay parenting. Alas, we get a preening Partridge.
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Video: Brainstorm Media
This article was first published in the July 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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