Alan Cumming is best known nowadays for his smart, snarky, and subtly camp performance as Eli Gold in The Good Wife, the best show on network television. But he originally became famous for playing the MC in Sam Mendes iconic revival of Cabaret in the late 1990s; he won a Tony and legions of straight and gay fans. He is a song and dance man, but not in the chipper, jazz hands Glee way; he is mischievous, sly, sexy, and sardonic. And very, very funny. In Travis Fine’s gay-parenting drama Any Day Now, Cumming plays a drag performer in 1970s West Hollywood who becomes a father to an abandoned teen-aged boy with Down’s syndrome. Both his Broadway skills and his (somewhat) more tempered dramatic skills are on display, and in his greatest screen role, Cumming makes the film, despite its missteps, memorable and moving.
Rudy (Cumming) is the lead of a trio of drag queens who perform at a WeHo bar. One night he picks up a patron, handsome assistant district attorney Paul (Garret Dillahunt), and it is him Rudy calls when he discovers that his junkie neighbor (Jamie Anne Allman) has disappeared, leaving her developmentally disabled son Marco (Isaac Leyva) alone. Paul balks at first, but when Marco escapes the foster home where he’s been sent and Rudy and Paul find him, they quickly become a family. In order to make that happen, however, they have to lie to a judge about their relationship. Paul’s boss figures it out what is actually going on, and since it’s the late 70s, gay parenting goes on trial. Literally.
Fine’s screenplay is structured a bit too much like a Lifetime issue-of-the-week movie, and, particularly during the courtroom scenes, some of the scenes are cartoonish. Gregg Henry, who plays the homophobic opposing lawyer, is a stereotypical monster. Fine’s direction of his actors inside Rachel Fine’s beautifully colored cinematography makes up for some of the clunky writing. But the movie is held together by Cumming’s broad, versatile, deeply sympathetic performance as Rudy. (His only flaw is his wonky Queens accent, which is a bit inconsistent.) His musical performances are key; when he sings “I Shall Be Released” over the last few images, it’s heartbreaking.
Any Day Now
Directed by Travis Fine
Written by Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom
Starring Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, and Isaac Leyva
On DVD and Amazon.com
It has been a while since I saw something on screen and said out loud, “Oh, my God.” But I did that while I watched Graceland, Ron Morales’s taut indie thriller about kidnapping, child prostitution, and poverty in Manila. Early in the film, Marlon (Arnold Reyes), the driver for the rich and sleazy Congressman Manuel Changho (Menggie Cobarrubias), is driving his and his boss’s teen-aged daughters home when they are hijacked by a kidnapper dressed as a policeman. They drive to a deserted area of a massive dump; the girls are whimpering, Marlon is tearfully protesting, and suddenly the kidnapper shoots Changho’s daughter in the chest before absconding with Marlon’s. It is a quick shot, with only a split second of blood splatter, but that brief moment as young, recently chipper, now terrified Sophia shutters and dies made me exclaim out loud.Read More
The screening at which I saw Oblivion was, as many advanced screenings are, hosted by a local radio station that had given away passes to contest winners. Usually, someone low on the totem pole at the station gives away t-shirts and tries to get the crowd excited that they got to see a movie for free. Some of these people are better at their job than others, and some of them get better movies than others. That said, the poor woman who was assigned Oblivion was not at fault when the audience responded to her question “Who’s excited about Tom Cruise?” with five or six slow claps. Oof. Then someone yelled out, “Morgan Freeman!” And the crowd clapped. Unfortunately for the crowd, Oblivion is 95% Tom Cruise; Morgan Freeman is barely there. However, if you forget that you hate Cruise, you may like him in Oblivion, which is a serious, artful science fiction film hidden behind the veneer of a shoot-‘em-up blockbuster.Read More
In the late 90s, Danny Boyle directed two of John Hodge’s screenplays in a row that made them and their star Ewan McGregor famous. Trainspotting – the brilliant, disgusting, kaleidoscopic examination of a crew of Scottish heroin addicts – is better known, but Shallow Grave, a post-modern Hitchcock thriller about morally troubled Londoners, is just as good: Twisty and shocking and delightfully fun. I was pretty excited that, after 13 years, Boyle was directing a Hodge script again. And it’s a crime thriller, too! Trance is just as twisty and occasionally as fun and thrilling, but it’s a bit too shallow to reach the heights of Shallow Grave.Read More
I miss the days when movies occasionally had long weird names like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. The long name certainly didn’t indicate excellence, but rather a quirky nature; this was not meant to be a mainstream movie.
Those usually have short names that are easy to remember, like Gladiator and The Notebook and Lincoln. The differentiation isn’t always true, but when you see a title like The Place Beyond the Pines nowadays, you know it’s going to be artsy. And I like artsy, and I like weird, and I like experimental. But the thing about experimental movies is that experiments are done to see if something works. The Place Beyond the Pines, despite writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s Herculean efforts at creating country noir and Ryan Gosling’s smolder, doesn’t work.Read More