Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ideal Home (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
The first thing we see in Ideal Home is a child's escape from a motel room, one punctuated by thwarted parental ambition, legal complications, a lack of recognition. It's a striking start, suddenly and sweepingly replaced by the opening montage of a cooking show, bringing upon the screen the grinning face of that child's grandfather, Erasmus Brumble.
Shot in New Mexico, with a primarily male cast, this is in some ways a Western - a troubled community has its fault lines exposed by the arrival of a mysterious stranger - but here it's not that there's No Name On The Bullet, but that the blender is endorsed by a different celebrity chef. That chef, Erasmus, is Steve Coogan, absolutely at the top of his game. His partner, Paul, a rarely better Paul Rudd, is not only his show's producer but the practical part of the household. There can be, and probably ought to be, concerns about two straight actors playing a gay couple, but in as much as I can judge their relationship is possessed of a definite chemistry, and while physical affection is on occasion used for humour it never feels malicious. Indeed, while there's reference made to the melodrama of the courtroom and there are plenty of jokes, there's a significant emotional core to the film, one anchored in Paul's relationships with Erasmus, and, through the film, with the kid.
Jack Gore's great, ably managing to convey the difficult parts of settling in, of establishing oneself within a new home, recognising and testing boundaries, realising that adults are just kids who got older, and older, and older. The kid's father is played by Jake McDorman, another of a generation of actors whose talent isn't constrained by those old lines between film and TV, though admittedly that's made complicated by the fact that one of his most recent roles was in the TV series that followed Limitless. Though slightly less complicated than the Vader (nee Skywalker)/Solo/Ren generational triptych (comparing things to Star Wars is just a phase), there's a good line in parallels and lessons learned and unlearned between the roles, and the scenes between Coogan, McDorman, and Gore are all well drawn. It's Rudd though, not just in company, who excels.
Written and directed by Andrew Fleming, who worked with Coogan elsewhere in the American southwest before on Hamlet 2 and whose most famous work is still probably The Craft, it's genuinely charming, laugh out loud funny, emotional enough that dust levels must have increased, and edgy enough to avoid feeling too schmaltzy. It's very funny, often based in the ribald, but there's some measure of wry (and rye) as well. A parent-teacher conference after a presentation gone wrong is an almost continuous series of cackles, and Taco Bell's co-operation is a cruelty to audiences who saw it at Edinburgh's 2018 Film Festival as their nearest branches are between 40 and 160.1 miles away. Cruelty might be a relevant word, because there is some measure - dinner party conversation about fine food near the Syrian conflict is indicative of characters due change, even if the Mayor thinks they're good company. There are, as said, a few jokes predicated upon the central couple's sexuality, and that's a difficult line to judge. I thought it fair, funny, but in truth my opinion doesn't count.
What I can say is that it's gorgeous. Properly lush, those landscapes of scrub and pueblo that caught The Eyes Of Orson Welles, a few brief moments of support for the harried production designer (objects must indeed exist in a space) and from their sterling work a home that is ideal, at the very least visually. This is cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski's ninth film with Fleming (they've done some TV together too), and every frame could be taken from Vanity Fair. In a career that also includes Tremors, it's fair to say Gruszynski's eye suits the desert sun.
It's properly painterly and there's reference to other photographers in the accoutrements of the titular house, the couple posed with Liza Minelli, art on the walls, sculpture on the tables, Chunky Monkey on the freezer with the Kevin Costner magnets. So lush and louche that it reminded me of GSFF award winner The King And I, a similarly large character, a similarly complex story, a similarly heady cocktail of taste and refinement and spirits (in both senses). There are a few jokes created, or at least paced perfectly, in the edit, and with one name writing and directing Jeffrey Werner's input there seems important. There's a perfectly paced series of shots that's based entirely upon the presence of figures in landscape. There are some brilliant bits of composition, little tricks of focus and technique that gladden my critical heart.
The music is good - there's enough strings to multi-instrumentalist Martin Simpson's collection that I couldn't honestly tell you where his contribution and John Swihart's composition don't overlap, and there's something properly satisfying in the way that a particular earworm is used. Visually though - in set dressing, and setting, and dressing - it shines.
The tagline for the film is apparently "These Dads Suck" and even for a film that's got jokes predicated upon rude signs and a use of the C-word by a British actor (I think that might be a union rule) that's perhaps cruder than it deserves. Fleming's career as writer/director has a tendency to be a balancing act between genuine feeling and hardened affect, and even in writing that there's a temptation to add a "hur hur" to indicate the sides. Ideal Home is subtler than that, leisurely enough and rich enough (in most senses) to do better, and often does. There are some fairly cavalier attitudes to drink and drugs, and while I too am no angel there's something quite stark in the contrast in fortunes that wealth brings to those acts. Ideal Home isn't perfect, but 'lovely' doesn't do it justice. It's more Abigail's than any other kind of dinner party, and while it ends with family photos it's as coda to a family picture - admittedly one overwhelmingly unsuitable for children.Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2018