Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gay rights, Los Angeles-style, in the 1970s: Travis Fine's dark and teary ANY DAY NOW

Let's get it over with. ANY DAY NOW -- the new film directed and co-written (with George Arthur Bloom) by Travis Fine -- is a multi-hanky tear-jerker. Let's also be straight (so to speak, as this is a gay-themed movie): It earns every fucking one of those tears. Given the situation, together with the fact that this movie is very well- written, directed and acted, how could it not?

When a Down-syndrome boy, above, a teenager with a drug-addicted mother who may love him but cannot care for him, is suddenly abandoned, his neighbor, a female impersonator/singer -- along with his sudden new lover, an assistant D.A. who is for the first time giving in to his homosexuality -- decides to take the kid in and provide him, at long last, a real home. If only the legal system will allow it.

Come on: this is heart-wrenching, finally heart-breaking, stuff. What keeps it afloat, often aloft, is the utter darkness that hangs over the movie, provided by the situation, the characters and the period and place -- Los Angeles in the 1970s. TrustMovies was himself a closeted bi-sexual man who lived in the L.A. area during this time and can attest to much of the prejudice and difficulties present back then. Writer/
director Fine, shown at left, dries out those inevitable damp hankies with a lot of smart, dark humor; performances that remain true through thick and thin (thin being some inevitable clichés); and a richness of purpose and a balanced execution that render this story worth our time and tears.

Most talked about, no doubt, will be the stops-out performance of Alan Cumming (above) as the singer/impersonator who gets the story's ball rolling. Cumming is almost frighteningly real. He gives us the kind of man -- and performance -- that constantly challenges the character, as well as the viewer, to be proud (and loud) and refuse to put up with any bullshit. This is a very fine line to walk, and if Cumming sometimes appears to nearly topple over, he (along with the script, direction and the work of his co-stars) somehow achieves the necessary but tricky balance. He's got a good singing voice, too, as several soundtrack songs will prove. (The music for the film, including the great Bob Dylan title tune is well-chosen and put together.)

In the role of the D.A. lover, Garret Dillahunt (above, left) proves every bit the sturdy, studly straight-appearing male, and then softens it enough to make us believe this hunk could go for the likes of Cumming. But haven't we all seen this in life at one time or another: the odd pairing of men and/or women who thrive on each other's seeming opposition, whether via personality, looks, or the whole shebang? Cumming has the showy role, but Dillahunt provide the necessary foundation and back-up.

The role of the boy, Marco, features Isaac Leyva (above, himself a Down-syndrome fellow) who offers everything that is required from this, his film debut. Much of the supporting cast is made up of stalwarts like Frances Fisher, Chris Mulkey, Gregg Henry and Michael Nouri -- all just fine and some near-hissable in their villainy. Yet this is not in the least unbelievable; what we see here was the standard attitude some 35 years ago, a time in which many of my readers were not yet born. Even those characters shown to be kindly and helpful were generally not ready to stand up and shout for gay rights. (Nor was I, now that I think about it...)

One thing this noble movie should make us older folk realize anew is how much circumstances have changed for the better for the GLBT set. Though, as anyone who knows history will realize, it's a fight just to remain in place.

Any Day Now, running 97 minutes and from Music Box Films (the company that has given us, with Keep the Lights On and now this one, the two best gay movies of the year), opens this Friday, December 14 in a dozen cities around the country and will expand to many more in the weeks to come. In New York, see it at the Sunshine Cinema or the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center; in L.A. it's at Laemmle's Monica 4, Town Center 5, Playhouse 7, and at the Sundance Cinema Sunset 5.  Click here -- and then click THEATERS on the drop-down bar -- to view all currently scheduled playdates.

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