There was a time when American LGBT cinema was, save experimental doodads like Todd Hayne’s Poison or Tom Kalin’s Swoon, hamfisted, overly-earnest activist tract about homophobia, coming out and not much else. Thanks in part to these films, the culture changed, and now gay movies about tolerance and not much else are, mostly for the better, rare. If it weren’t for Alan Cumming looking obviously middle aged, one could mistake Any Day Now as a just-discovered entry from this bygone era. Cumming and Garrett Dillahunt play a gay couple struggling to adopt a child, only to be blocked by the legal system and bigotry in general. It’s not enough that the kid (Isaac Levya) is the ignored and abused son of a junkie. He’s also mentally handicapped because it’s that kind of movie.
Only it isn’t that kind of movie–or rather, it is and it isn’t, which is actually more irritating. The screenplay, by director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom, is shamelessly manipulative. It even sets events in 1979, so that rather than comment directly on the lingering effects of homophobia in today’s adoption bureaucracies, it can depict some real bigotry, therefore allowing us to be smug about how much better we are today. The setting also means Cumming plays a drag queen (with a broad Queens accent), while the more staid Dillahunt scores the old school closeted D.A. stereotype.
With the deck stacked so high against it, it’s a wonder that Any Day Now is relatively watchable. Fine is a sadistic screenwriter but a (mostly) chill director, and only an intermittent twinkly piano score–plus a couple of unfortunate torch song moments, courtesy of Cummings–force us how to feel. Despite the odd shouting match, the vibe is relaxed and actor-reliant, and Cumming gives a full performance as a character who can go full hothead but can also be quiet and genuinely tender. (Dillahunt works some shadings into his buttoned-up type, but he’s supposed to be boring.) Of course, once Fine has found a way to adapt his muted style for a ridiculous, over-the-top capper, most of the accrued goodwill has dissipated.