Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Any Day Now": gay parents, unconditional love, and radical hospitality

Tonight (Sunday December 16, 2012), President Obama, speaking about the Newtown tragedy, said “we are all parents for all our children.”  That shared responsibility may well include or encompass the childless, which is an important idea in the new film “Any Day Now” from director Travis Fine.

The obvious political subtext is “gay parenting” or “gay adoption”, in conjunction with gay marriage. But this film is set in 1979, albeit in West Hollywood, long before these items had become perceived as legitimate political or social issues . It is more about the courage (and wisdom) in getting involved with another’s (particularly someone else’s child’s) hardship when one stumbles into it by happenstance, while struggling to make it oneself.   And what is demanded of nightclub performer Paul (Garret  Dillahunt) and his new man-friend,  a closeted Los Angeles county prosecutor Rudy (Alan Cumming), is a lot more than giving a dollar to a homeless person outside a Metro entrance. 

The movie opens with Paul, who is not exactly a drag queen, but more a caricature of one. For example, he keeps his Mediterranean body hair.  His is an “entertainer” who sings or pantomimes for tips.  (I once dated someone in NYC in 1978 who played guitar at Shakespeare’s for tips).  Down to his last ten dollars, and bothered by his landlord for cash rent, he stumbles on to Marco (Isaac Leyva) , a pre-teen with Down’s Syndrome, left alone by his drug-addicted single mother right after she has been hauled away to jail.  (On the Down’s issue, compare with the film “Girlfriend”, reviewed here July 16, 2012).

I suppose the “correct” (and that doesn’t mean “right”) thing to do is to just call the police, who will turn the kid over to Child Protective Services, for foster placement.  But Paul and soon Rudy are so touched that they take him in (to Rudy’s ample apartment) and become “two dads”.  Parenthood in their case starts with sudden, unexpected "radical hospitality". 
Before I get to the “gay parenting” aspect, let me say that, living in several cities, I’ve encountered a number of surprising issues sprung on me by various people.  They have sometimes involved money or poverty or even political asylum or immigration.   (For example, in 1980, in Dallas, people were asked if they had “spare bedrooms” to house gay Cuban refugees – an issue that led to an interesting plot sequence, for me at least.)  Generally, though, they have been more subtle and nuanced than the situation in this film, real to me, but not as obvious to an omniscient observer, or mainstream moviegoer.  The screewriting in this film does play on urgency and dire straits, more so than usually occurs in “real life”.   

Rudy finds his own boss (Chris Mulkey) socially intrusive.  Eventually, Paul gets into some trouble, and Rudy gets fired.  This happens in the film’s “middle” and isn’t adequately explained.  (I suspect that the DVD will have some deleted scenes on this point, but they needed to be included;   at 97 minutes, the film still had some space for clarity.)  Paul and Rudy mount an effort to legally adopt Marco, and are shown as loving parents (compared to the incompetent mother).  But prejudice and their gay lifestyles get in the way.  There is an appeal, and by this time, Marco’s own situation is precarious enough that he will die without parents capable of loving him unconditionally.  Without adoption, his life will surely end.

All of this does fit into the idea that we are, in some sense, all parents, potentially, as the president said tonight.

Frances Fisher plays the judge, who seems willing to make an about-face in her attitude, but then recants. At one point, there is a cute line in court, "Is that a question?", as if inspired by Lesley Stahl's famous interview of Mark Zuckerberg.
The official site from Music Box Films is here. I overlooked this film when I went to NYC in April for Tribeca. 

I saw the film late Sunday afternoon at Landmark E Street, before a substantial audience (two-thirds full), probably half of the audience gay men  (many older male couples in the audience). 

The movie was written by Fine along with George Arthur Bloom and is said to be based on a true story.
One could compare the film to the 1995 book “Getting Simon: Two Gay Doctors’ Journey into Fatherhood”, by Kenneth Morgen, MD, about adoption in Maryland (Bramble Books).

I  want to take a moment to link to film critic Roger Ebert’s comments on media coverage on the Newtown tragedy, as compared to previous such events.  Ebert does discuss Gus Van Sant’s grainy film “Elephant”, which I saw in 2003 at the Avalon in NW Washington DC.  It’s a frightening film. 

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