LOS ANGELES — Depictions of custody battles have become a cinematic staple, but few register with the heartfelt emotion of “Any Day Now.” This 1970s Los Angeles-set drama about a gay couple fighting to adopt a Down syndrome-afflicted teenager is only loosely inspired by a real story, but the smart screenplay by director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom has the ring of truth. And the issues raised by this film remain all too sadly relevant.
The central characters are drag queen Rudy (Alan Cumming) and his new lover, closeted district attorney Paul (Garret Dillahunt). Their sweetly depicted romance is a whirlwind one, with the flamboyant, uncensored Rudy immediately drawing the reserved lawyer out of his shell.
Rudy lives in a rattrap apartment next door to a drug addict mother who habitually neglects her son Marco (Isaac Leyva). When she gets arrested and sent to jail, Rudy impulsively decides to care for the helpless 14-year-old rather than leaving him to the vagaries of the Family Services system.
After the mother agrees to hand over temporary custody to Rudy, he and Marco move in with Paul and they quickly become a loving family, as beautifully etched in an 8mm film montage. But when Paul’s homophobic boss becomes suspicious it doesn’t take long for the authorities to take Marco away, with his newfound parents forced to embark on a battle to get him back in a legal system marked by anti-gay prejudice.
While some of its plot elements feel forced (did Rudy really have to be a drag queen lip-synching disco songs in a gay bar?), “Any Day Now” nonetheless exerts a powerful hold, with even the most melodramatic scenes handled in effective subtle fashion. And the supporting characters — including a no-nonsense judge (Frances Fisher), a take-no-prisoners lawyer (Gregg Henry) and a sympathetic special needs teacher (Kelli Williams) — defy easy stereotypes.
The superb performances add immeasurably to the film’s impact. Cumming, who also gets to show off his vocal abilities, delivers Rudy’s hilariously bitchy wisecracks with estimable comic flair while also revealing his underlying vulnerability. Dillahunt perfectly conveys Paul’s quiet strength, and Levya is deeply touching as the doughnut-loving teen who finds himself a helpless legal pawn.
Besides handling the dramatic aspects with keen sensitivity, director Fine gets the period details exactly right, especially the awful 70’s era wardrobes and hairstyles that leave modern audiences cringing.
“Any Day Now,” a Music Box release, is rated R for sexual content, language and some drug use. 97 minutes.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definition for R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.