12/06/2012 08:52 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

Movie Review: Any Day Now

Travis Fine's Any Day Now is set in the late 1970s, but, with its story about a gay couple battling to adopt an unwanted child, it could just as easily be set in the current day.

It's one of the few films being released Dec. 14 (in limited release), up against the juggernaut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. So if you're looking for the little movie that will make you laugh and cry -- and think -- here's the one to seek out.

Fine's film is based on a true story and focuses on a struggling drag queen in Los Angeles, Rudy (Alan Cumming), who is barely keeping up with the rent in his dismal apartment building. But his life isn't worse than that of his neighbor, a teen with Down syndrome named Marco (Isaac Leyva), whose mother is an addict-prostitute, who leaves him alone at night when she works.

Even as Rudy is launching a potential romance with a closeted lawyer named Paul (Garret Dillahunt), he discovers that Marco has essentially been abandoned by his mother. So he takes him in -- then enlists Paul in the battle to give Rudy some sort of foster-parent or guardianship role in Marco's life. At the same time, Rudy essentially puts Paul on the spot: Is he interested enough in Rudy to have him and Marco move in and create an impromptu family?

The answer is yes -- but creating a family and hanging on to it are two different issues. Though Marco's mother is in jail for drug possession, Rudy and Paul find the courts stacked against gay adoptive parents. They must fight in court to retain custody of Marco, despite the fact that the alternative is foster care or even institutionalization.

That, ultimately, is the point of Fine's film: that too often, bureaucracy (and bigotry) obscure what is best for the child in question. The law gets so caught up in itself that it fails to apply common sense in its blind pursuit of the rules. And, even today, the prejudice against homosexuality precludes gay adoption in a number of states in the USA.

Yet this isn't a movie about prejudice so much as a tale of fear of the unfamiliar: Both the gay men and the handicapped teen are societal outsiders, kept out of the mainstream by bias and tremulousness about something unknown. Blinkered sexual attitudes (masquerading as religious or moral beliefs) plague the men; the handicapped have long struggled with the kind of social compartmentalization that keeps them out of sight and mind.

Cumming offers the best movie performance of his career, given the central role and room to work. Whether he's doing his drag act, trying to break through as a real singer, standing up for himself or being the protector and caregiver for Marco, Cumming finds different layers to the character, giving him a depth and a soulfulness that is irresistible.

Dillahunt is his perfect foil, a straight arrow who gets flustered by Rudy's directness but who knows how to speak up for his cause at key moments. Dillahunt conveys the sense of both excitement and fear this man experiences as he reveals more of himself to a world he sees as unaccepting.

Any Day Now is one of those movies that should get people talking, whether it's about the issues it raises or the performance it contains. It's one of the year's gems and worth the effort to track it down and see it.

Find more reviews, interviews and commentary on my website.