No heartstrings left unplucked with 'Any Day Now' ★★

A determined weepie, "Any Day Now" lives for such scenes as an adoptive parent being pulled away, screaming, from the child with Down syndrome whom he has come to know and love. The movie has heart and soul and a load of justifiable outrage. Here's what it doesn't have: nuance, dramatic specificity, an evocative sense of time (late 1970s-early '80s) or place (Los Angeles).

The actors are willing — in the case of Alan Cumming, too much so, probably. An insidious marvel in the Sam Mendes-directed "Cabaret" revival on stage, Cumming is best known for his portrayal of Eli Gold on "The Good Wife" and as the host of "Masterpiece Mystery!" In "Any Day Now," he chews it up as Rudy, straight out of Queens, N.Y., now a denizen of West Hollywood, where he performs in drag at a gay club and lives in a dingy apartment. He dreams of a cabaret career. The lip-syncing barely pays the rent.

One night, the tense but appealing Paul (Garret Dillahunt of "Raising Hope"), whose body language screams recently divorced and not yet out of the closet, stops into the club. Presto: They click. First comes sex, then comes real affection and love. The story of "Any Day Now," as written by George Arthur Bloom and then retooled by director Travis Fine, becomes a legal drama inside a love story.

Rudy's junkie neighbor neglects her teenager with Down syndrome, a sweet boy named Marco (Isaac Leyva, whose smile in close-up is the picture's greatest asset). Left to his own wanderings, Marco is taken in, more or less on the sly, by Rudy and Paul, the latter working in the district attorney's office. The picture poses a simple question: Will this gay couple be allowed to legally adopt the boy they so clearly are qualified to parent?

Along the way, "Any Day Now" cannot help but yank at your heartstrings. But there's a serious problem of focus regarding Rudy, onstage and off. Too much of the picture plays like a Cumming audition reel. "Here's your chance to kick open that closet door and do some of that world-changing," he is required to say at one point, when his boyfriend despairs. That is a nearly unsayable line, and too much of "Any Day Now" founders in cliche and predictable table-turning and point-scoring instead of building a set of complicated characters at odds with a biased system.

Postscript, and I think this may be a good general rule for anybody making any sort of movie: If you set a scene at a special-needs classroom assembly where everyone's singing "America the Beautiful" and young Marco is taking the lead, you shouldn't bother with indulgent cutaway shots of one of the dads (Cumming) beaming with pride, on the verge of tears yet again, defiant but vulnerable, vulnerable but defiant.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Any Day Now' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating:
R (sexual content, language and some drug use)
Running time: 1:37
Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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