Erasmus Brumble (Steven Coogan) and his partner Paul (Paul Rudd) are surprised when Erasmus’ grandson — who they didn’t know existed — turns up at an extravagant dinner party they are hosting. It becomes clear that it may prove too much to look after a kid who only eats Taco Bell, for a couple made up of a celebrity chef and his long-suffering producer, whose relationship is on the rocks, and who have never even wanted to be parents, thank you very much. The story is based very loosely on the real-life experience of writer and director Andrew Fleming, who had a male partner with a child from a previous relationship.
Ideal Home is very funny: Steve Coogan finds in Erasmus Brumble a (slightly) camper version of Alan Partridge, with the scenes of him filming his TV show especially comparable. The film’s titles ape those of a cheesy cooking show, all bad special effects and dated fonts, Brumble pretending to cook, pose, and stare into the middle distance. Then there are lines like: “Breakfast needn’t be served on a vast rancho. When we return, I’ll show you how you can make all this delicious food in your own, little, kitchen.” It’s a perfectly pitched satire of pretentious cooking shows we all know. His character and the script give him the space to really go for it.
The humour doesn’t only come from Coogan, of course. Paul Rudd is excellent as Brumble’s sardonic partner and producer, Paul, providing excellent balance to Coogan’s kookiness. The interactions between him and his new ward — who he dryly refers to as “the kid from the shining”— provide many funny and eventually tender moments. Jack Gore as the mischievous grandson Angel (understandably prefering to be called Bill) is also fantastic. He elicits real sympathy from the viewer with his puppy dog eyes, and manages to make the words “Taco bell” funny. The script is strong, and there are small background titbits, like a gallery called “Dootsh-Bag Galleries,” which show how Ideal Home is particularly funny when ripping into the vagaries of celebrity and money. This sarcastic humour, along with a rather dark storyline of custody, drink driving and prison, offset the more compassionate moments, meaning that they are not overly sweet.
There is, perhaps inevitably, a fair amount of humour based on the characters’ sexual orientation, some of the jokes falling easily into tired stereotypes. This raises the question: does Fleming’s gay identity — along with the fact he based the story on his own experience — make these tropes any better? Perhaps it’s the volume of the jokes that begins to grate, or the idea of being surrounded mostly by straight people laughing at them that’s the issue. It could be ever-so-slightly uncomfortable for an LGBT+ audience member due to this. It also seems, at first, that there are more of these jokey references to being gay and to gay sex than actual physical intimacy between them. One may worry whether this gay relationship between two straight actors is believable; but the actors are of such a calibre that it becomes easy to suspend your disbelief.
Ultimately, Ideal Home is not a ‘gay movie’, it’s not Queer Cinema; it’s a rom-com in the same vein as the funnier of the heterosexual ones. A Sufjan Stevens song does not a Gay Film make. Which is fine, as long as you don’t expect the former. The film is not without its flaws but is nevertheless a really pleasant watch. It’s testament to the fact that cinema now seems to be branching out, with films that happen to be about gay people, rather than being ‘Gay Movies’.
Image Credit: Edinburgh International Film Festival