* * 1/2
There’s something uncomfortable, now, of watching famous straight actors play gay. It used to be the norm, then it was considered acceptable if “necessary”, but things have definitively shifted and times have defiantly changed. It’s taken over a decade for Andy Fleming’s screenplay Ideal Home to make it to the screen, and, ironically and challengingly, this most politically correct of stories has erred badly in the light of current political correctness.
Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd have been attached to the film for a long time, but they – and Fleming, and everyone involved – should have noticed the winds changing and stepped down before rolling camera. It’s not like their performances justify their position – that is, there’s no way anyone can say they give performances better than any gay actors could have given (can you imagine if anyone did!) Coogan gives a typically wry comedic reading, Rudd a typically warm-hearted one, but both of them, frankly, look, act and sound very uncomfortable – and wrong – whenever they’re playing it “gay” (which both do, often, Coogan the most).
They play a set-in-their-ways couple living a very urbane and privileged life in Santa Fe, where Coogan’s Erasmus is a celebrity TV chef and Rudd’s Paul his TV show’s producer. They shoot the show on their own ranch and retire to sophisticated, adult dinners on their patio with Santa Fe’s elite, gay and otherwise (the mayor plays himself). Then Erasmus’s grandson shows up, needing a place to live, and the boys have to parent up.
The film is a heartfelt plea for tolerance that simply pushes too much heart. There are some very, very funny moments – I laughed out loud at least four times, always thanks to Coogan – but the second and third acts are plagued by overt sentimentality. It feels very much like Fleming was worried we wouldn’t “get it”, so he bludgeons us with it, shooting himself in the artistic foot but subverting his humour with schmaltz. What could have been zippy is drippy, and what should have been gay is fey. Oy vey.