In the glimpse of his life at the beginning of Any Day Now, Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming) appears to be in a holding pattern. He works at a gay nightclub where he dresses in drag and lip-synches to old pop songs, barely scraping together enough to pay his rent in a cruddy one-room apartment with walls that might as well be cardboard. His neighbor, Marianna (Jamie Anne Allman), is a junkie mother who spends most of her time getting laid or going out, and leaves the stereo on at full blast 24 hours a day. After a particularly hateful interaction with her, Rudy barges in one morning and turns the stereo off, only to discover that her child, Marco (Isaac Leyva), a 14-year-old kid with Down Syndrome, has been left alone after Marianna was picked up and jailed for drug possession.
The setup of Any Day Now was loosely inspired by a true story, fashioned into a screenplay by George August Bloom about Rudy and Marco's friendship, which then sat in a drawer for years as several attempts to get it made were launched, and folded. The project took on new life when director / co-writer Travis Fine (also an actor, from The Thin Red Line and Girl, Interrupted) sat down with Bloom and hammered it into something slightly different: an emotional legal battle for Rudy to remain Marco's legal guardian. After Rudy discovers Marco, he calls Paul Fleiger (Garret Dillahunt), an attorney who he met at the club the night before. At first, Paul is resistant, knowing that acknowledging his sexuality will be a social and occupational death sentence, but his love for Rudy and Marco quickly wins out.
Set in the comparatively harsher climate of 1979 and 1980 (well, depending on who you ask), and tackling the touchy screen subject of mental disability, it's most impressive how subtly and gently Fine handles the material. I have often heard the comment from gay film fans that movies with gay characters are overly depressing, hitting every tragic note with the grace of an anvil dropping from a skyscraper. Any Day Now generates prickly tension when Rudy, Paul, and Marco encounter hateful, discriminatory people, but Fine prefers to focus on the warmth and sweetness of Rudy and Marco's parent-child relationship. Considering that the backbone of the story is that Rudy and Paul are great parents, it only makes sense that the film focuses on it, but it's still refreshing to see Fine emphasizing the ways in which they triumph and fight rather than the ways the world knocks them down.
The film also gives popular supporting player Dillahunt a chance to shine. Although Cumming is excellent (especially performing two heartbreaking, show-stopping songs), his character Rudy has less of a transformation; his story is about his relationship with Marco. Dillahunt, on the other hand, is coming to terms with himself, a tricky emotional rollercoaster that Fine effortlessly weaves in around the material with Marco. There's a kindness to Dillahunt that Fine uses to great effect, a soft southern lilt to his slightly high-pitched voice that offsets his square jaw. There would also not be much of a movie to speak of without the discovery of Isaac Leyva, the actor chosen to play Marco. At the script stage, Marco was written as an angry, belligerent character who fought with his affliction, but Leyva's natural, undeniable sweetness convinced the filmmakers to change the script.
As a straight person, perhaps my opinion is naturally biased or uninformed, but many of the films I've seen about gay and lesbian characters have a tendency to put too fine a point on their subject matter, drawing a line in the sand between "straight movies" and "gay movies." Don't get me wrong: in an entertainment industry that caters overwhelmingly to straight men, it's no surprise that people making movies for gay audiences feel the need to emphasize themselves, but it still sometimes feels like filmmakers set out to make a movie that is more focused on the fact that the characters are gay rather than telling a story about characters who are gay. Any Day Now is a movie about parents, about lovers, about a family, and about their fight to remain together, and the conflict arises from characters interacting with other characters rather than "homosexuality" or "Down Syndrome." Fine breaks through two subjects that could easily be politicized by remaining true to Rudy, Paul, and Marco, locking his focus in on their emotional journey. One of the best movies of 2012.
Any Day Now arrives on Blu-Ray with the original "big faces" poster art, although the pensive nature of the image suggests a slightly different film, in my opinion. The disc comes in a standard Blu-Ray case, with an insert promoting other Music Box releases.
The Video and Audio
Music Box's 2.35:1 1080p AVC presentation of Any Day Now is absolutely reference quality. More and more, banding seems to be an issue with home video presentations of movies, and yet I failed to spot any in this wonderfully film-like transfer. Blacks are very deep, but never struck me as crushing detail, and the color palette, while intentionally subdued, remains vivid and nicely rendered, giving the film a vintage warmth rather than a cold, modern look.
A DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack is on-par with the picture. Much like banding, I see tons of dialogue-heavy pictures that don't offer much in the way of aural flair, but the sheer number of crisply, authentically rendered environments -- a dark nightclub, a crappy apartment with cardboard-thin walls, courtrooms, barbecues, dingy basement offices -- really give this track a little extra something even in the ambient moments, and the track shines during Cumming's songs late in the movie. English subtitles (not captions) are provided.
Three video extras are included. "Making Any Day Now" (17:07, HD) is a real cut above the usual making-of featurette. Fine and the rest of the cast and crew offer a great summarization of the process that went into transforming the script (left in someone's drawer for many years) and the process of shooting the movie, which moved at a breakneck pace to accomodate Cumming's schedule. Next, "Meeting Isaac Leyva" (2:18, HD) is a short interview with the actor, who demonstrates his dance moves (as showcased in the film), with his compelling audition tape (2:00, SD) wrapping up the extras.
Trailers for Lore, Starlet, and Keep the Lights On play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Any Day Now is also included.
Any Day Now is a great film, taking tricky subject matter and handling it with a subtletly missing from too many of today's movies. Music Box, in turn, has honored the film with an impeccable presentation and some short but interesting supplements. A commentary by Fine and the cast could've pushed this up into Collector's Series territory, but this is still highly recommended.
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