By just looking at the premise of Ideal Home on a surface only schism, it would appear we have yet another round of adults trapped in the tendrils of arrested development forced to grow up in order to raise a child, only this time with a LGBTQ couple at the center. It’s Two Married Men and a Baby. Andrew Fleming, telling a story inspired in part by his own life, seems all too aware of this built in hesitation. Under the pressure to curb those expectations, he has crafted a film that finds engaging new wrinkles through the lenses of his unconventional protagonists that also employs the cliches of the genre at just the right frequency to give many audiences something they’ve been craving for a very long time. A by the book romantic comedy that validates and normalizes the lifestyles of LGBTQ couples.
Our couple in question is comprised of Erasmus (Steve Coogan), a flamboyant cooking/travel show host with a frightening lack of awareness of cultural appropriation and Paul (Paul Rudd), his straight-laced producer. They’re coasting by through days upon days of long sessions of loving arguments when all of a sudden, Erasmus’ grandson Angel (Jack Gore) shows up at his front door, sent by his son Beau (Jake McDorman) who has recently found himself on the wrong side of a jail cell. Now, our two affluent and codependent friends must find away to get the aggressive and trauma ridden Angel (or as he prefers to be called, Bill) back on track while juggling their own relationship troubles.
Even if we weren’t told early on that Erasmus and Paul have been together for ten years, the electric chemistry between Coogan and Rudd would give it away. This is the couple that knows each other inside and out and is honest with each other to the point of occasional discomfort. Coogan completely leans into his lovable goofball persona, giving us a man who is as petty as he is loving. Even at the moments where he comes off as a total oaf, we can’t help but find him charming, even while its enraging Paul. That said, with all respect to Coogan, it is Rudd who runs away with this film. Paul is a beautifully written, deeply empathetic character. A man who is looking to find the missing piece that will make his life feel truly complete while being so tightly bonded with the man who conquers and breaks his heart on a moment to moment basis. Rudd does a fantastic job switching through these gears, often multiple times within one scene. Even when he’s at his most irritable towards Erasmus or Bill, we see the internal love that creates that irritation.
In fact, Paul is such a layered character that it does bare wondering if Erasmus could’ve brought a bit more to the table. While Coogan’s performance certainly works, it would not have hurt to reign him in just a smidgen. Perhaps an actor with a more reserved screen presence could’ve found a better balance, which does also open up the possibility of casting a person of color in one of the leads, which seems like a no brainer for a film set in Santa Fe. However, Fleming’s fantastic screenplay and direction picks up any slack hanging over a scene. His film never lingers for too long on the fact that this couple is comprised of two men. Instead, he frames these two as simply being two people in love. We see authentic moments of genuine joy, fiery anger and even some delirious laughter channeled through Fleming’s sharp set-ups and quips.
The relationship that Paul and Erasmus create with Bill also plays out more realistically than in other films of this ilk. Gore never goes for cute in his performance. It’s a restrained turn that harbors a past of disappointment and emotional abuse. We see a young boy who has certainly suffered, but who is still at heart, a kid. As Erasmus and Paul peel back his layers, his softening feels genuine. It’s not a snap change but a gradual evolution.
Fleming is wise enough to either avoid or breeze through the parts of these films that can get overly schmaltzy and exhausting, particularly in the third act. We get a great deal of moments that would go on for ten or fifteen minutes in other romantic comedies that are presented rather matter of fact. While this may strike some as somewhat anti-climatic, it allows the film to be more focused on the character building moments that make it resonate as much as it does.
Ideal Home is being buried by a limited theatrical/VOD release, which is such a shame. Much like Love, Simon, this is the kind of LGBTQ + film that could both exist and succeed in the mainstream. Paul and Erasmus’ hilarious and human dynamic can resonate with anyone who has experienced love in their life, and that kind of visibility is the way to change minds and open hearts and allow those who resonate with these characters feel more seen than they did before.