BOY, THAT’S EMOTIONAL
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
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.