Film Review: ‘Ideal Home’

Variety | 6/29/2018 | Owen Gleiberman
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“Ideal Home,” a featherweight big-screen sitcom in which Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd play testy romantic partners who wind up as parental caretakers of a 10-year-old boy, is the perfect example of how a movie can be progressive and retrograde at the same time. It’s supposed to feel cutting edge that Coogan and Rudd, who are both terrific actors, adopt a no-big-deal posture toward portraying a gay couple. If only the movie itself were as nonchalant about it! Written and directed by Andrew Fleming, who has had a fluky, hit-or-miss career (“Threesome,” “The Craft”) but built a good comic pedestal for Coogan a decade ago with the dementedly funny “Hamlet 2,” “Ideal Home” is never not painfully aware that its two main characters are gay. It’s a cozy duet of ****-for-tat bitchery that, at times, carries the nagging whisper of a liberal minstrel show.

Instead of treating Erasmus (Coogan), a grandiose monomaniac of a celebrity chef who has his own TV series, and Paul (Rudd), a director of celebrity-chef TV, as characters who happen to be gay, the film puts their sexual identity so front and center, creating such a cliché pile of domestic shade-throwing, that it’s just about the only identity they have.

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That’s especially true in the case of Erasmus, who Coogan plays as a camp diva, a louche darling, a (might as well just say it) raging old queen. Coogan long ago corned the market on characters who are toxically self-absorbed blithe spirits. He’s a middle-aged peacock of acid-witted narcissism, never more so than when he’s doing a literal gloss on himself — in the “Trip” films (those delectable culinary road movies) or his classic segment of Jim Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes.” Here’s the problem, though: In “Ideal Home,” Coogan, swanning about in lip rouge and...
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