Exploitation in gay adoption story


Any Day Now (M). Director: Travis Fine. Starring: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva. 98 minutes

Buyer beware: when the words 'true story' are attached to a dramatic film, 'true' is going to be a relative term. I'm comfortable with Australian filmmaker Robert Connolly's principle, that artistic license can be used to convey the 'truth' of a story even if facts are fudged. As such it's wise to take taglines such as 'Based on a true story' or the more nebulous 'Inspired by a true story' with a grain of salt. In the case of Travis Fine's Any Day Now, better make it a fistful. This is almost entirely a work of fiction, whose tenuous claim to truth obscures an exploitative core.

Fine's film is, on the face of it, fine indeed. It proffers for our consideration the experiences of a gay couple, Rudy and Paul (Cumming and Dillahunt), in 1970s West Hollywood, as they try to gain custody of Marco (Leyva), an abandoned teenager with Down syndrome. Fine heaps injustice upon injustice against these two flawed but kindhearted men, to the point where the viewer might feel they will choke on their moral outrage. Don't be surprised if you openly weep at times. Fine attacks the heartstrings with a velvet sledgehammer.

It's skillfully done, and impressively acted. Cumming's performance as the charismatic drag queen Rudy bears favourable comparison to Dustin Hoffman's best 'dramedic' work in the 1970s. Accomplished character actor Dillahunt (Deadwood) uncharacteristically plays the straight man to the more animated Cumming, as closeted gay lawyer Paul. Their early, lustful encounters quickly kick into a more serious gear as Paul supports Rudy legally and personally in his efforts to gain custody of Marco, whose mother, Rudy's neigbour, is in prison.

Any Day Now accumulates much sympathy for these characters as they are beset by brute social conservatism. Paul operates under a well-founded fear that his sexuality will imperil his career. His and Rudy's status as a gay couple is used against them during the course of their legal wrangling over Marco's fate. It's a gripping story, which appeals to the viewer's natural compassion for these marginalised human beings coming to blows with a society that continues to oppress them. The characters are portrayed with depth and dignity.

The film has the hallmarks of hearfelt social commentary. But commentary on what? If it really were a true story, then that fact alone might justify its existence. But Fine is on the record revealing only a passing similarity between the story he tells in Any Day Now and the events that 'inspired' it. What then does it have to say to us in 2014, in a time when same-sex parenting and support for same-sex marriage have become increasingly mainstream? Pry beneath the film's rousing outer layers and you will discover a rather troubling vacuity.

A clue lies in the figure of Marco, who is more MacGuffin than character. We are expected to accept on face value that he will be better off with Rudy and Paul than in foster care. While this may be true, Fine offers scant evidence. Even given the sad state of Marco's life, Fine is more interested in the victimhood of Rudy and Paul, than the wellbeing of this most vulnerable young man. His use of Marco's disability and social disadvantage to make heroes of his crusading protagonists and sobbing messes of his audience is exploitative in the extreme.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is the assistant editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, Robert Connolly, Travis Fine, Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva



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Existing comments

Well said Tim, nothing justifies canonisation theatrics of SSU based on 'heroic' victimhood [In fact SSU, is material mortal sin at best {supported by brutal social dictatorship of relativism} even if tinselled with tears].

Father John George | 17 April 2014  

Father John George - That wasn't my point at all. But thanks for reading.

Tim Kroenert | 17 April 2014  

Exploitation is not always overt, it can be very subtle indeed. It's a given that the most vulnerable are most at risk, and sometimes from the most unlikely people. This film doesn't seem to be mainly about same-sex parenting but about needs and wants over-riding truth.

Pam | 18 April 2014  

Tim I admit I used sleight of hand interpolation [now exposed] to address moral "vacuity" to balance other ES articles that tippy toe Church teaching on SSU http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

Father John George | 18 April 2014  

Father John George, for some reason I'm not convinced that your constant cynicism/lack of hope about homosexual issues is not just a matter of church teaching and a concern for the moral welfare/salvation of the poor afflicted ones who consider themselves LBGT. If that were the case you would be jumping up and down about all those who condone masturbation - which also has the same moral guidelines in the church - just don't do it.

AURELIUS | 22 April 2014  

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