There’s no shortage of films where an unlikely couple (or trio sometimes) has a child forced upon them, usually by some odd circumstance. In an era where gay marriage exists and assimilation continues to be the primary focus of gay men (rather than a wider focus on issues affecting the queer community at large), it’s about time we have a film like Ideal Home. On its surface, one could mistake it as too camp and frivolous, only existing to further reinforce the idea that “gays are just like you, even when raising kids,” but writer/director Andrew Fleming never quite forces his characters into the predictable box of parenthood.
Almost everything about Ideal Home is made for queer audiences, the folks who would be delighted to laugh at themselves, unlike any number of heterosexual critics who have mistakenly chastised the film, its actors, and directors for not being “progressive” enough. As Erasmus and Paul, Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd are an unforgettable pair, the former an unabashedly ridiculous and self-centered TV chef and the latter an anxious mess prone to bursts of anger. Fleming’s script delivers one pithy quote after another, rarely letting up on the comedy and offering the leads the kind of dialogue they were born to throw at each other. One minute could bring a “fuck off” while the next brings us a blowjob rain check during a house party.
Ideal Home lives and dies by its script and its actors, from the duo at its core to the rather charming young man that plays Erasmus’ estranged grandson Bill (Jack Gore). This isn’t to say that there isn’t amusement to be found in its visuals–Coogan driving in a fur coat with his scotch hanging out the window will remain etched in my mind for eternity–but the visual gags are few and far between.
Fleming and co. milk the usual family punchline set-ups–from a kid almost walking in on sex to pornographic videos during a child services inspection–for all they’re worth and turn something as casual as “what should we feed him” into the film’s emotional through line. Some might complain about its sentimentality, as it is a film that closes with portraits of actual queer families and their children through the credits, but Ideal Home’s open emotion is what makes it successful. After all, a film as intent on joking about assimilation needs to also have faith that such idyllic situations can exist, and any world where Coogan (with a wardrobe that lands between rich white woman and gauche cowboy) and Rudd (with a beard he should never be allowed to shave off) get to live happily ever after is the kind of world for me.
Directed by Andrew Fleming; written by Andrew Fleming; starring Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Jack Gore, Alison Pill, and Jake McDorman; 91 minutes.