The struggle begins “Any Day Now”

The struggle begins “Any Day Now”

An unconventional gay couple fights the good fight

 By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Photo: Garret Dillahunt and Alan Cumming star in “Any Day Now”: R Grade B-

What happens when a sassy drag queen and a buttoned-up lawyer seek to gain custody of a young man with Down’s syndrome who has been abandoned by his drug addicted mother? You know from the premise that the story’s all about the strutting drag queen with a conscience, and that notion threatens to overpower any other aspect or character, making the whole affair little more than an afterthought.

A funny thing happens though on the way to this foregone conclusion. Director Travis Fine, who co-penned the script with George Arthur Bloom, surely assumed “Any Day Now” was simply following the standard blueprint, giving audiences exactly what they expected, but the oh-so-sneaky Alan Cumming had his own agenda, which almost upsets the apple cart.

Cumming plays Rudy, the flam-glam queen with the heart of gold, and it doesn’t take long to realize that, as a performer, Cumming shares the same openness and generosity of spirit as his character. The camera loves his handsome face, his long shaggy hair, his cocksure swagger that matches John Travolta’s from “Saturday Night Fever” note for note, even while spinning and tweaking the hetero-machismo into an analogous gay reflection in the glow of the disco ball. Yet, Cumming refuses to dominate the frame. He can’t help it when Fine moves in close, as he does during Rudy’s early onstage performances with his drag girl group. Rudy is the upfront lead, who also happens to have a strong interpretive voice of his own, and Fine wants to remind us of the girl leaders of the pack – the supreme Diana Ross, the marvelous Martha Reeves.

But Cumming seems eager to share the space. His Rudy longs for connection, for someone to love. His eyes search and there, right next door, is Marco (Isaac Leyva), a teen challenged not only by birth but also circumstance, born to a mother (Jamie Ann Allman) with no maternal instinct, no instinct at all beyond the urge to satisfy her habit. Marco’s only companion is a doll, a big-haired Barbie which, of course, catches the attention of Rudy. However, Cummings undercuts the obviousness of the symbol of the doll as the link between Rudy and Marco, so much so that there soon isn’t a need for it in their relationship.

As Rudy begins to share the spotlight with Marco, he also drags Paul (Garret Dillahunt) into the forefront. Paul, a divorced lawyer, pops into the club where Rudy performs and when they lock eyes, you know what happens next. The feverish physical passion, the soft outing of Paul, his attempts to cover his butt (and his presumed heterosexuality), the moment when he steps out of the closet on his own to fight alongside Rudy. Dillahunt captures the hesitancy and reticence in the beginning, but he fails to enliven Paul during the latter stages. The character remains small, more of a supporting player, in the lives of both Rudy and Marco.

And yet, Cumming makes ample room for Dillahunt and Leyva, which would appear to be more challenging with a first-time performer like Leyva, but there’s an easy rapport between Cumming and the newbie. He wants the audience to see and feel this story as a coming together of this loving family, which the more conventional societal forces can’t appreciate.

But, in the end, “Any Day Now” really is all about Rudy (and, by extension, Cumming). Marco gets to know love and support. Paul emerges as a new man. But Rudy is the caged bird who ends up singing the blues. Fortunately, thanks to Cumming, he does so in perfect key.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com


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