“Fresh and clever”
Andrew Fleming (Hamlet 2) delivers a through-and-through feel-good movie, with the crucial help of a particularly bombastic Steve Coogan and chameleonic talent Paul Rudd. Though some of the dialogue could use some editing, the film nevertheless achieves that rare balance between genuinely delightful comedy and grounded social relevance.
The action begins as it means to go on. A scrappy man and his elementary-age son scramble to escape a motel room as the cops wait outside. With them is a woman complaining that the scumbag inside stole her Chanel purse, her Chanel purse. The burly officer, between bangs on the door, turns to comfort her, saying “Hey, hey, I get it, I have some Chanel loafers that I love, so I understand.” Ideal Home continues in this vein of fabulously sardonic charm, as the story pivots to flamboyant couple Erasmus Brumble (Coogan) and Paul (Paul Rudd), who are suddenly saddled with the son from the opening. His father, now in custody, is Erasmus’ son, meaning Erasmus and Paul are all of a sudden in charge of a grandson they didn’t know existed. While this setup — the sudden introduction of a child that must be raised — has been done before, Fleming, Coogan, Rudd, and Jack Gore, as the kid himself, manage to make Ideal Home feel fresh and clever, and a welcome new chapter in the “family comes in all shapes and sizes” genre.
The film is fairly straightforward in its approach; in fact its main downside is the formulaic feeling of some of the dialogue and supporting characters. There is a conspicuous debt owed to The Birdcage for its presentation of bombastic men in love who offer quotable quips back and forth and prove over and over that the line between love and hate can at times seem very, very thin. But unlike previous iterations of these types of stories, Fleming’s film seems purposefully dotted with genuinely dark interactions here and there, from sudden fights to tragic revelations to near breakdowns; serious implications between the ditzy laughs. This changeable emotional landscape not only keeps the audience on their toes, but successfully recalls the knife edge on which many a family interactions walks, when an argument is only a few careless words away from exploding.
In moments like those, especially, but truly in the entire film, Mr. Rudd must be given credit for his all-in performance as put-upon partner Paul. While Coogan performs with candour aplenty, he nevertheless puts forward yet another version of his ubiquitous narcissistic jerk character, with some added heart, but not much. Rudd, on the other hand, explores entirely riveting sides of his extensively likeable persona, and it is nice to see such a versatile actor given a chance to go beyond his normal smiley self and try lashing out and being scornful for a change. Ideal Home is not all scorn and argument, of course, and thankfully Fleming and his cast have found room for loads of side-splitting lines and situations that I highly recommend you see for yourself.
Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller (Seen 21 June)
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(Ideal Home is showing today Saturday 23 June & Monday 25th. See EIFF programme for details)