Title: Any Day Now
Director: Travis Fine
Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva, Chris Mulkey, Frances Fisher, Kelli Williams, Mindy Sterling, Alan Rachins, Jamie Anne Allman
A warmly captured, wonderfully sketched, 1970s period piece social-issue drama, “Any Day Now” tells the story of a gay Los Angeles couple fighting to at first legalize and then establish the permanence of their adoption of a neglected teenager with Down Syndrome. Engaging performances and a beguiling, unfussy technique anchor this big-hearted tearjerker, which cycles through some familiar territory but also deftly and movingly sidesteps conventional wisdom about where this tale may end up.
Drag queen performer and would-be singer Rudy (Alan Cumming) is out and proud, which may be one of the reasons he catches the eye of Paul (Garret Dillahunt), a buttoned-up assistant district attorney with one foot still in the closet. A hasty sexual encounter somewhat unexpectedly leads to a more considered and stable relationship, buoyed in part by Rudy’s impulsive decision to take in 14-year-old Marco (Isaac Leyva), a kid stricken with Down Syndrome who lives in his apartment complex.
The boy’s mother (Jamie Anne Allman) is a no-account junkie who lands in prison, so to keep Marco out of foster care Rudy, with Paul’s guidance and assistance, convinces her to sign temporary rights of guardianship over to the two of them. They all move into Paul’s place, and Marco, in a loving and nurturing environment for the first time, really blossoms. Unfortunately, not everyone is as blase about Rudy and Paul’s relationship (“cousins” is the front Paul peddles) as Marco’s new teacher (Kelli Williams); Paul’s boss (Chris Mulkey) has suspicions, and the matter ultimately ends up in court.
Co-written by director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom, “Any Day Now” summons memories of “Philadelphia,” “North Country” and other social-activism legal dramas built around the protection or reaffirmation of minority rights, but its scale is much more intimate. As a snapshot of institutional homophobia, the film succeeds quite squarely; it has punching power that summons the indignation it wishes to. But it’s also human, and doesn’t go out of its way to tidy up its characters’ lives, or draw overly neat lines of demarcation between the private and personal. Rudy is allowed to round into shape a bit; we see the impact of Marco on his responsibility and priorities.
Fine obviously has a small budget with which to work, but he, cinematographer Rachel Morrison and the rest of his below-the-line team do a good job of constructing and communicating a sense of period detail as well as an artful palette that speaks to the interior emotional landscapes of the movie’s characters, even if it sometimes doles out close-ups that don’t say much. The montage is a familiar device, for instance, but as used here — with a torch song interpretation from Rudy laid over home video footage — it beckons in mesmeric fashion, feeling expressive and ripe.
Its performances pop, too. The Audience Award winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, “Any Day Now” makes ace use of Cumming’s winsome pansexual appeal (for which he was awarded Outfest’s Best Actor prize), but gives Rudy enough of an edge — he’s the gas pedal to Paul’s brake — to give viewers an idea of the offscreen adolescence that must have informed his own journey. Dillahunt, meanwhile, is quite different than almost any role for which he’s most well known; not even a silly wig that rivals Chris Pine’s ridiculous ‘do from “Bottle Shock” can derail his solid turn. Finally, a well cast array of recognizable faces in supporting roles helps push and pull the levers of dramatic friction and pay-off — the argued issues of which are every bit as relevant today as during the time which “Any Day Now,” inspired by a true story, is set.
Written by: Brent Simon