ON IN CINEMAS
EIFF 2018: Ideal Home (2018) starring Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan
N.B. This film was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 and is on general UK release from 6th July 2018.
A celebrity gay couple get an unexpected visitor
Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan play Paul and Erasmus, a wealthy gay couple living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The former is the director of a cookery TV show called Ideal Home, whereas the latter is its flamboyant celebrity chef host. While they love each other dearly, they bicker and snipe constantly about every little thing.
Their life together changes when Erasmus’s estranged ten-year-old grandson (Jack Gore) turns up at their lavish home. He ran to them after his own father - Erasmus’s equally estranged son Beau, played by Jake McDorman - was arrested and thrown in jail for assaulting a prostitute.
While Erasmus feels duty-bound to take him in, Paul is initially reluctant to have a young child in the house - especially one as awkward and uncooperative as this one turns out to be. However, he gradually starts to warm to the idea. At the same time, this surrogate family has its own challenges to work through, including the couple’s constant disagreements, Paul’s occasional panic attacks, the boy’s delinquent behaviour and a snooping child protection officer named Melissa (Alison Pill).
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Rudd and Coogan’s double act lifts this predictable comedy-drama
One of the main promotional posters for Ideal Home is a rather nondescript affair featuring the three main cast members photoshopped over a plain orange background with the tagline “THESE DADS SUCK”. It makes it look like it’s going to be a fairly generic comedy with lots of unsubtle gags. The casting also features two heterosexual comic actors playing homosexual characters. Luckily, these decidedly unpromising omens belie what turns out to be a surprisingly likeable movie. Yes, there are a few crude gags which refer to gay sex. Most of the time, however, the emphasis is on sharp wit and character humour, with the overall approach being somewhat closer to a comedy-drama than a pure gag machine.
Rudd and Coogan’s chalk-and-cheese coupling gives plenty of mileage for hilarious dagger-eyed bitchery. The former plays the slightly more grounded and responsible one, whereas the latter plays the more flamboyant and reckless half of the partnership. However, since we’re always left with the sense that both actors have a genuine affection and sensitivity towards their characters, they never sink to the level of derogatory gay stereotypes. There’s also plenty of wit derived from Coogan essaying another of those hilariously pretentious and self-awareness-lacking celebrity buffoons à la Alan Partridge. Some mild satirical points are aimed towards ludicrously overdressed celebrity chef programmes, the first example occurring during Coogan’s introductory scene which sees him attempting to hand out Mexican tapas to guests using a wooden board with a long handle while riding around a desert ranch on a horse.
The third main character here is, of course, the kid. As with most child actors, Jack Gore seems to have a pretty limited range but, nonetheless, the film makes good use of it. There’s a scene where he admits that he is being fathered two gay men which gives him a chance to use one particularly choice piece of language. He clearly enjoyed the opportunity to say it in this film; after all, what little boy wouldn’t?
On the downside, the film’s more dramatic elements - while well-meaning - are fairly soft and predictable. Every once in a while, a more serious event occurs (such as the couple having a major bust-up, Paul suffering from one of his panic attacks, or the kid selling some of the latter’s medicine at school). However, these are inevitably smoothed over a minute or two down the line so that the sparks and chuckles can continue to fly. The film’s climactic scenes are the worst offenders as a series of major dramatic occurrences are swept over in one big montage - a quite blatant way of saying “hey, let’s get to the feel-good ending already”.
Thankfully, Rudd and Coogan manage to build up enough goodwill with their double act that its hard to resent the film’s shallow approach to its more serious aspects.
Runtime: 91 mins
Dir: Andrew Fleming
Script: Andrew Fleming
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Coogan, Alison Pill, Jake McDorman, Jack Gore