ICYMI: Ideal Home (2018)
As a lifelong lover of film, you’d think I was not only on top of what is coming out or new but also what’s in development or in the pipeline. However, the last twenty years has seen an explosion of film production thanks to multiplex screens in need of product in addition to direct-to-video and direct-to-cable fare. Throw in a proliferation of streaming platforms and it would take ten lifetimes to watch every movie being made. Suffice to say, it’s getting easier for films to sneak up on me.
2018’s Ideal Home would definitely fall into this category. How a film written and directed by Andrew Fleming (The Craft, Dick) and starring Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan skipped a release in theaters and garnered zero publicity is beyond me. The film is a quirky slice of life about a longstanding gay couple whose lives require adjusting when a long-lost grandson arrives. Plot-wise, the film has few surprises. What is surprising is how good the performances are and the subtle poignancy that evolves organically by the film’s charming end.
At the start, we see Erasmus (Coogan) and Paul (Rudd) hosting what seems to be a regular dinner party full of equal parts pseudo-intellectual repartee and choreographed superficiality. Bringing the proceedings to a halt is the arrival of 10-year-old Bill (Jack Gore). Paul is justifiably shocked to not only find out that Eramus had a heterosexual encounter but that it produced a son and a grandson. Bill arrives when his father, Beau, is sent to prison on drug charges.
Bill’s senses and curiosity are piqued by his new, foreign surroundings. Thankfully, we are spared much in the way of Bill being shocked. He is simply an observer, almost like an alien, drinking it all in and happy to be taken care of for perhaps the first time in his young life. Erasmus and Paul take understandable time to get used to this interloper in their lives, which includes Bill’s finicky habit of only wanting to eat Taco Bell. Paul being reduced to order fast food in bulk is viewed with sympathy.
Erasmus and Paul’s relationship is tested in more ways than one, including surprise visits from a social worker (Alison Pill). She has no desire to remove Bill but must also make sure this erudite couple can handle their burgeoning parental responsibilities. Things get a little dark when Beau gets an early release and demands to take Bill back. Without giving too much away, winds of change are kind and Bill’s final culinary request is a charming sign of that all’s well that ends well.
As I mentioned earlier, the enjoyment and surprises in Ideal Home come from the performances. Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan give us a couple that starts off as a cliché but slowly develops into a believable and loving pair. I was reminded of the work of Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi in BBC’s Vicious, where the never-ending barbs and insults are really constant declarations of love and devotion. Rudd and Coogan are never going for an effect or over-the-top, their performances are nuanced and some of the best work either has done on screen.
Apparently, filmmaker Fleming based this film on a similar episode in his own life. The film is obviously made with care, finding a way to tell personal story with the right balance of drama and real-life messiness. What emerges is a film that doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel but simply take the viewer on a charming and enjoyable ride.
And bonus points for the family trip to the trippy caves of Meow Wolf, which may be added to your dream destinations list.