2018 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – IDEAL HOME
IDEAL HOME answers the question of what would happen if you basically plopped THE BIRDCAGE, as is, into 2018. You want something more cutting edge and where the punchline of many of the jokes isn’t “they’re gay”, but you recognize that the heart is in the right place and the two leads are talented. IDEAL HOME feels like a throwback to before MODERN FAMILY effectively normalized a pair of gay men raising a family.
The plot of IDEAL HOME finds celebrity chef Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and his partner and producer Paul (Paul Rudd) living the high life, and bickering, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Into their laps is dropped Erasmus’s grandson when Erasmus’s son is jailed. Saddled with a responsibility that they don’t particularly want, and a young boy that doesn’t particularly want to be there, their relationship is strained and they’re forced to grow. Even if they don’t want to.
Now, you can likely tell me all the plot twists and turns from that description. Originality is not the film’s strong suit. But, Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan are two of the funniest actors on the planet and, if nothing else, they’re a source of consistent laughs throughout. Which is particularly impressive since their characters are sketched in the broadest of caricatures. Coogan is the eccentric, free spirited one, with a tremendous ego. Rudd is the uptight, responsible one. They only thing they really have in common is a love of food and drink. Which sometimes gets in the way of making their relationship being anything to invest in, despite the scripts attempts to tell us otherwise. We’re introduced to them bickering and the moments of them being honest, open, and kind together are hard to come by. But, at least as embodied by Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd, the actors have charm and comic timing, even if their chemistry is mostly a comedic one.
The script and direction by Andrew Fleming is where I have my biggest issues with the film. Andrew Fleming has directed notable films like THE CRAFT and DICK, but he’s spent a lot of time working in television lately. And the pacing and A.D.D. unwillingness to play a scene too long without a punchline shows throughout the film. Just when you think the film might be getting at something meaningful or insightful, it insistently feels the need to insert a punchline. Coogan’s Erasmus is a successful celebrity chef and Rudd is his producer, so why does every cut to of their show look like parody? And why does it insist on going for the lowest of low hanging fruits with Taco Bell jokes, of all things. Broad Taco Bell jokes that won’t upset their corporate sponsor at that. Alison Pil shows up as a social worker, in a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, except to evidently have Coogan and Rudd riff on gay porn parody films she finds in their home video collection. I’ll give Fleming credit, bringing a bottle of wine to Taco Bell feels like a gag that illuminates the characters, but most of the time it feels like sitcom level stuff. The strength of IDEAL HOME is that Rudd and Coogan are able to wring laughs out of this material. The weakness is that they have to bring all their talents to bear to do so.
IDEAL HOME is part of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s GenreQueer Program. And, fair enough, it’s a relative crowd-pleaser among more difficult and daring films. In that context, it’s an entry point and a change of pace. But with this cast, there was potential for a much funnier, deeper film. Having your heart in the right place only gets you so far.
IDEAL HOME plays twice more at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival on Sunday, October 28 at 9:30 pm at the Times Cinema and on Wednesday, October 31 at 1:00 pm at the Oriental Theatre.
The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 18, 2018 to November 1, 2018. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website.