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Thursday, December 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Fair
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A gay couple try to adopt a disabled boy in Any Day Now
Family men
Fighting the system in the 1970s.
Fighting the system in the 1970s.

I admire the premise. In the indie drama Any Day Now, a gay couple (Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt) in 1970s Los Angeles take in a teenage boy (Isaac Leyva) with Down syndrome. The men bond with the kid, who has been all but abandoned by his junkie mother (Jamie Anne Allman). Then, in court, the men try to get permanent custody.

Gay couples adopting kids is common these days (private shout-out here to Brad and Joey, and to Travis and Josh: congrats, friends, on your babies!). But it's still a pretty rare topic for movies, and I'm glad director and co-writer Travis Fine tackled it. The kid's intellectual disability is an interesting storytelling component. The period setting is evocative.

In short, there was promise. But what a wasted opportunity this movie is. I don't hate it, but I got impatient watching it. It's rife with well-worn ideas, including rote courtroom scenes, the kind we've all seen way too many of on TV. There are also hokey montages.

A few lines are funny or memorable, but many more are clichés. "I'll be there with bells on," Cumming says at one point. In an infinite universe of artistic choices, why go with a cliché? And there are many more than that. Sometimes the clichés arrive in strange combinations, as when someone says, "You could have a real pickle on your hands." Now there's an image.

I've long admired Cumming. He was an openly queer actor back in the 1990s, long before Neil Patrick Harris, Cynthia Nixon, Jim Parsons and others made it look easy. Cumming is a wonderful performer, as any fan of the TV show The Good Wife can tell you. But he is adrift in Any Day Now. One problem is an unconvincing Queens accent, but mainly it's the script that lets him down. Even so, he has tender, funny moments with Leyva, who is an appealing performer.

Another problem is that there is a lot of Cumming singing. A lot. There are many more songs than you might expect in a drama this short, and although Cumming has a decent voice, I'd rather watch him act. I'm more entertained by his drag performances. They help establish his character's flamboyance, which contrasts with the dourness of the lawyer played by Dillahunt (TV's Raising Hope).

Mainly I am impatient with the way Fine keeps raising the stakes. The legal system the gay couple confront isn't just uncaring; it's actively, disgustingly bigoted. The kid's mom isn't just inattentive; she's aggressively monstrous. The story is poignant enough on its own terms. It doesn't need punching up.

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