Any Day Now should not work this well. Whether it’s a heartfelt courtroom scene or a heart-warming montage, there is little deviation from its familiar formula. Seasoned movie-goers will be able to predict plot twists well in advance. But since director Travis Fine shoots his character with clarity and the performances uniformly strong, it is easy to forgive the predictability. There is an important message here, one that’s easily forgotten ever since Modern Family became the popular image of two loving fathers.
It’s the late seventies in Los Angeles, and Rudy (Alan Cumming) struggles to get by as a drag performer. He commands the stage with ease, and when Paul (Garret Dillahunt) wanders into the bar, they notice each other instantly. Paul is in the closet, and Rudy is sensitive to that – after their first sexual encounter, he treats him as if he’s seen that type before – and Paul gives Rudy his business card (he’s a district attorney). On his way home, Rudy notices Marco (Isaac Leyva), a mentally/physically handicapped boy who lives down the hall, and since his mother is out partying every night, Rudy cares for him out of sheer decency. Soon Rudy and Marco move into Paul’s house, and they develop a happy home until prying eyes threaten to undo it.
Prior to the inevitable climax, Any Day Now unfolds like an observant romantic comedy. Rudy uses humor as a defense mechanism, and he’s a good foil for Paul who is more the “straight” man. There is a sense of surprise during their early scenes together; Cumming and Dillahunt are naturally likable character actors –they’re both wounded and terrific here – yet they’re both emotionally reticent for very different reasons (Rudy’s experience vs. Paul’s inexperience). Fine’s direction, even during scenes of joy, is naturalistic and slightly drained of light. With gay men on the outskirts of the city, there is a tinge of Bukowski in his portrayal of LA. As Rudy makes abundantly clear, Marco is an innocent in this unseemly environment; the script implies Marco’s condition was brought on by his mother’s behavior during pregnancy. By the time Rudy and Paul push for the mainstream, their genuine love is no match for a system working against them.
The courtroom scenes are where Any Day Now loses its way. They’re well-acted enough: the prosecuting attorney sleazily abuses rampant homophobia, while the judge suggests prejudice under the sheen of justice. Where Fine and co-screenwriter George Arthur Bloom run into problems how is its predictability. Even though Philadelphia takes place well after Any Day Now, the underdogs in both films encounter similar odds (eventually, in another nod to Philadelphia, Paul recruits a black lawyer). Fine constructs his film for maximum poignancy, with the requisite tug at the heart strings, a humanist voiceover, and Rudy with another show-stopping musical number. It would have been more interesting to follow Paul and Rudy for another couple years, and how their relationship grows or self-destructs. But I must review the movie I saw, not the movie I wish I saw, and Any Day Now is an effective, occasionally cloying melodrama.