A rol­lick­ing new com­edy about a gay cou­ple who sud­denly have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of look­ing af­ter a boy man­ages to com­bine laugh-out­loud mo­ments with a range of thought­ful in­sights into re­la­tion­ships

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY - STEPHEN ROMEI

English ac­tor Steve Coogan has grown on me, thanks mainly to his dou­ble act with Welsh co­me­dian Rob Bry­don in Michael Win­ter­bot­tom’s caus­ti­cally funny tril­ogy about travel, food, wine and friend­ship, The Trip (2011), The Trip to Italy (2014) and The Trip to Spain (2017).

He’s also good, in a se­ri­ous role, along­side Judi Dench in the 2013 drama Philom­ena, which he co-wrote. He is a jour­nal­ist help­ing an Ir­ish Catholic woman search for the son taken from her by the church 50 years ear­lier.

Directed by Stephen Frears and based on real events (jour­nal­ist Martin Six­smith wrote a book about it), the film was Os­car nom­i­nated for best pic­ture and best adapted screen­play.

Food, wine and travel fea­ture in Ideal Home, in which Coogan is Eras­mus Brum­ble, the flam­boy­ant host of a tele­vi­sion cook­ing show.

He goes places and cel­e­brates the lo­cal cui­sine. We first meet him on horse­back, sport­ing a cow­boy hat and wear­ing rid­ing chaps.

His anx­ious di­rec­tor, Paul (US ac­tor Paul Rudd), feels like the one un­der the whip. When asked why he doesn’t up sticks and take an­other job, he says: “Part of me wants to stick around just to watch him die.”

A crew mem­ber laughs, but Paul does not and it’s here that we re­alise he and Eras­mus are a cou­ple.

They seem to have a good life. Their home is a lux­u­ri­ous ranch in New Mex­ico.

There’s a photograph of them with Liza Min­nelli. They eat, drink, have sex. Drugs are men­tioned. They have lots of friends. But like most cou­ples they have their dif­fer­ences.

Their re­la­tion­ship is taken some­where un­ex­pected when a 10-year-old boy ar­rives at their door. He is Eras­mus’s grand­son. Ear­lier we see his dead­beat fa­ther taken in by the po­lice. “You f… ev­ery­thing up,” the boy says to him.

The boy (Jack Gore) is silent and re­sent­ful. We learn his name but it’s one he hates.

He asks to be called Bill in­stead. It’s what hap­pens next that makes this movie, writ­ten and directed by An­drew Flem­ing, a bit dif­fer­ent.

The ti­tle is a pun on the name of Eras­mus’s cook­ing show. Will he and Paul rein in their ex­ces­sive be­hav­iour to look af­ter the boy? As Paul says: “We can’t have a kid. We are kids.” Will they party on as usual and ne­glect, or even cor­rupt, the boy? Or will the ten­sion be­tween do­ing one or the other di­vide the cou­ple?

The com­edy is di­rect at times. Eras­mus wears a T-shirt that reads “I Shaved My Balls For This?” Paul’s porn col­lec­tion is outed. The high­light, for me, is when the “new par­ents” face a teacher af­ter Bill, in a class project, tells it like it is. Their re­sponse is laugh-out-loud funny.

Coogan and Rudd are be­liev­able as a gay cou­ple. Eras­mus is more camp, wear­ing a fur coat to a Taco Bell, for ex­am­ple, while Paul is straighter look­ing but more volatile. Both are proud of their sex­u­al­ity.

While the boy is the cen­tre of the story, it’s the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two men that taps some emo­tional depths. The self-mock­ing end­ing is worth wait­ing for, as is the post-cred­its se­quence.

As an aside, I see this movie has re­ceived some crit­i­cism for “stereo­typ­ing” gay men. The two stars are not gay. The di­rec­tor is and I think his re­sponse to that crit­i­cism is per­fect.

In an in­ter­view he noted he had a photo of him­self and Min­nelli, that he had worn rid­ing chaps to din­ner and that he pre­ferred white wine to beer. “Am I a stereo­type?” he asked. “Or am I a per­son?”

Steve Coogan, Jack Gore and Paul Rudd star in com­edy Ideal Home, in which a gay cou­ple strug­gle to rein in their ex­ces­sive be­hav­iour to look af­ter a boy.

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