They Shan't Be Released

'Any Day Now' shoots for the heart, misses [meh]

The thought that registers is, "Alan Cumming has a pleasant voice."

It's 1979. Two men meet in Los Angeles and quickly fall in love. One of the men, Rudy (Alan Cumming), the transplanted New Yorker who's out and proud, works as the lead lip-syncher in a drag show at a West Hollywood bar. The other man, Paul (Garrett Dillahunt), is closeted and works as an assistant district attorney in LA County.

Their love life changes when Rudy takes in Marco (Isaac Leyva), a 14-year-old kid with Down Syndrome, who lives next door.

Marco's junkie mother is arrested for prostitution and drug possession, and presto-chango, Rudy and Paul are foster parents to a special-needs child.

The crux of the movie's plot revolves around the state of California's decision to remove Marco from Rudy and Paul's custody because they're gay men. Anyone who remembers the 1970s—either from living it or from watching Gus Van Sant's Milk—knows there were vocal anti-gay activists such as Anita Bryant stirring the pot and generally being assholes about equal rights.

In fact, anyone living in 2013 knows there are still plenty of anti-gay activists out there.

Think Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who are vocally, unapologetically anti-gay, and currently hold Congressional seats. In 2010, Florida ended its 33-year ban on gay adoptions, but plenty of states are still anti-gay in myriad ways.

That's not the half of it, and it gets the blood boiling, right?

A movie that takes a principled stand against bigotry of this type should have some sort of gut-punch feel to it, but Any Day Now is bland and predictable until its last few moments, when it takes a dramatic turn that I didn't see coming.

Still, that dramatic turn—and it's a doozy—is so whitewashed of emotional impact, it barely registers.

Maybe that's the point. Every action that takes place in Any Day Now just sort of happens, and the characters deal with it, shed a tear or two and move on. But the impact of this stuff—Rudy and Paul tell judges and other attorneys how much they love Marco, and he clearly cares for them—doesn't raise the hackles or boost the body temperature. I kept thinking of Annie Hall's refrain, "La di da," and I don't think that's the emotional response the filmmakers are trying to achieve.

The movie's last moments are supposed to be sad and make us think of the injustice of the whole affair, but everything feels muted because Rudy and Paul look like they don't care what happened.

One of Bob Dylan's best songs, "I Shall Be Released," is sung on screen near the end by Cumming (who has graduated to nightclub singer), presumably to provide poignant criticism of all the legal drudgery Marco, Paul and Rudy have been through, but the thought that registers is, "Alan Cumming has a pleasant voice."

But even in a misfire like this, there are good moments and good performances. Cumming, though his New York accent comes and goes, hits the right notes as a guy who's had enough of the bullshit hurled at him by others.

Always-reliable Dillahunt brings gravitas and weight to an underdeveloped character, even if he has to say things like, "That's brilliant!" when a different attorney suggests they use the 14th Amendment as the basis of their legal argument. Don Franklin plays the other attorney, and though he has to wade through a speech reheated from Philadelphia, he's fun to watch.

Finally, Alan Rachins pops up as a judge in two scenes, and though he's always enjoyable, he provides one of Any Day Now's many head-scratchers. In the denouement, Paul writes letters to the two judges and two attorneys who have opposed him.

We learn Marco's fate, but all I could think was, "What judge reads a letter at the bench alone at night?"

Directed by Travis Fine / With Alan Cumming, Garrett Dillahunt and Isaac Leyva / The Screen / NR / 97 min.

Santa Fe Reporter

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