Right on cue, the predictable dull thud of leaden identity-politics announces its verdict: Ideal Home is “anti-gay” for pandering to outdated queer stereotypes. That’s because its lead character Erasmus (Steve Coogan) is an outrageously flamboyant, cowboy-hat-wearing, pinot-swilling celebrity chef partnered with the bearded-but-bitchy Paul (Paul Rudd). Unexpectedly the pair, who spend most of their screen time bickering like the old married couple they really are, find themselves custodians of Erasmus’ 11-year-old grandson Angel (he prefers the more “normal” macho name Bill, Jack Gore) from a distant straight coupling. The circumstances closely match writer-director Andrew Fleming’s own experiences as a gay parent, so the accusations of homophobia have been hurtful, The script “is clearly a work of fiction,” he explains in an interview. The real cliche, he says, “is the really straight-acting guy who says, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m gay’. That’s the trope you see on TV, because it’s easier to handle.”
Well, no one can accuse Fleming of taking the easy route. Erasmus and Paul are affected and ostentatiously posh and their Santa Fe lifestyle is far from society’s “ideal”. They like to show off, and eat, drink and live without any sense of responsibility or restraint, plus they host coke-fuelled parties and keep a vast library of DVD porn. So naturally Bill (teenage males have acutely-tuned sniffer-dog-like abilities to locate hidden porn) has to discover Bareback Mountain. Though of course they also turn out to be outrageously good and caring parents, and end up giving the boy the most stable and loving family he’s had in all his troubled life.
If anything the film plays it safe, and it could be slated for lacking substance and depth. Its laughs are hearty and real though, and well-earned – both Coogan and Rudd seem to be relishing the best and funniest roles either of them have had for years (yes that includes the former’s Trips). Ideal Home is a genuinely warm, fuzzily lighthearted comedy that successfully subverts and refreshes conventional depictions of gayness and family life. And just in case those thick PC police don’t get it – a closing montage of real-life LGBTIQ families reminds all of us that it’s time to update accepted notions of domesticity – and think again about what makes a home ideal. M from June 21. Local cinemas include Dendy Newtown and Palace Central. ★★★1/2 View the trailer here
Also opening this week
For those enthralled by all things CGI, some very big lizards run amok once again in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, though I suspect most of our readers will be more interested in the 2018 Sydney Film Festival fare now rapidly turning up on our local screens. Check our verdict on what could be the best and most challenging film of the year, Foxtrot here. Aussie thrillers Brothers’ Nest and Upgrade are well worth a look too, as is the classy lesbian soap Disobedience staring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.
Reviews – Russell Edwards