By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The audience awards for this year’s Seattle International Film Festival were spread out around a collection of movies, but the voters knew how they felt about their favorite.
The best film and best actor prize went to “Any Day Now” and its leading man, Alan Cumming. It was a popular choice.
The movie’s success on the festival circuit was not lost on its distributor, and “Any Day Now” is opening for a regular run here in December, when critics groups (of which there are apparently an infinite number) give out their awards.
This indie may have a hard time drawing attention away from the garlands heading in the direction of “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” but you never know. It certainly gets points for being heartwarming in a different sort of way.
Loosely based on a real story and set in 1979, the film looks at the way a down-on-his-luck drag queen named Rudy Donatello finds himself inadvertently becoming the caretaker of a boy with Down syndrome.
Alan Cumming plays Rudy, in a performance that draws from a lot of this actor’s strengths showcased in the many oddball turns he’s given over the years.
The boy, Marco, is played by Isaac Leyva. Rudy has a boyfriend/legal adviser in Paul (Garrett Dillahunt), who’s also involved in raising the child. It’s 1979, so in his position as a city prosecutor Paul considers himself a little too public to be out of the closet as a gay man.
The conflict between those two is pretty clear-cut: Rudy makes no apologies and doesn’t hide his sexual identity, while Paul champions the path of keeping things quiet, especially if means not endangering Marco by losing him to the rabbit hole of foster homes and state custody.
Director Travis Fine’s approach is on Rudy’s side: straightforward and unapologetic.
After beginning as a character study, “Any Day Now” moves into a legal procedural, but occasionally finds room for one of Rudy’s singing performances. The songs comment on, or at least reflect, the storyline.
The secret to the movie’s effectiveness comes in part because of the contrast between Alan Cumming and Garrett Dillahunt. Cumming is a mischievous actor, and with his long 1970s hair he looks as elfin as a resident of Rivendell in “The Hobbit.”
A playful as he is, when it comes to landing the emotional beats, he knows how to bring it.
Dillahunt, a University of Washington alumnus, is a prized character actor from “No Country for Old Men” and “Deadwood.”
He’s got an old-school masculinity and a cowboy face that couldn’t be further from Cumming’s pixie style, and that contrast gives the movie a humorous undertone that works in its favor.
The film needs the humor, because generally it comes across as a very earnest TV-movie with a predetermined outcome.
Having said that, I will add that if you don’t get a little wet-eyed at various points during this tearjerker, please notify your next of kin.