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'Any Day Now': Love stories of drag queen, lawyer, Down syndrome teen

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming), a self-styled drag queen from Queens, is impish and irrepressible. As he whips hair back and forth while lip-synching pop songs on the stage of a Hollywood gay bar, his sparkly flamboyance suggests that he might be the spawn of Diana Ross and My Little Pony.

Mr. Extrovert catches the eye of the painfully introverted Paul (Garret Dillahunt), a buttoned-down assistant district attorney who resembles an overgrown Boy Scout. Paul might be the template for straight arrow.

These opposites have an electromagnetic attraction and complementary personalities.

In Any Day Now, this is an asset when passionate Rudy enlists pragmatic Paul to help him win temporary custody of Marco (Isaac Leyva), a Down syndrome teenager whose mother has been arrested for drugs. Did I mention that Travis Fine's film takes place in paleolithic 1979, when gay rights and gay marriage and gay dads were not topics of mainstream conversation?

Fine's film is two interlocking love stories: that of two men and also that of the men and Marco. The three constitute a family unit that teachers and social workers agree is healthy for Marco, who thrives in the stable and loving environment. Alas, the prosecutor argues that family services is preferable to this “unconventional” arrangement.

The bare-bones script is fleshed out by Cumming and Dillahunt, who create characters that are as memorable as they are moving. Is it by design or by accident that Cumming takes a low-key approach to playing a high-key emotionalist while Dillahunt does the reverse? Their commitment to their parts makes the movie - a situation dramedy that could be an episode on the Logo channel's The Baby Wait - feel big-screen substantial.

Less sizable are the supporting roles, including that of Marco. His growing attachment to his foster fathers is telegraphed rather than developed. In the same fashion, Fine telegraphs the motives of the film's villains in a way that is dramatically underfed. This courtroom faceoff has few surprises.

The film's one surprise, although it won't be one for those who saw Cumming on Broadway as the emcee in Cabaret, is his pipes. He has a handful of musical numbers that are wonderful, including “I Shall Be Released.” (The film takes its title from the lyrics of that Bob Dylan song.)

The takeaways of the film are horror and hope: horror that institutionalized homophobia was so pervasive, hope that that intolerance is a thing of the past.

Carrie Rickey is a film critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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