“It’s a strange movie structurally,” says director Andrew Fleming. “The characters are the plot.” He’s discussing his new comedy, Ideal Home, which stars Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd as a couple whose already strained relationship is put to a further test when Coogan’s young grandson shows up after the boy’s father is jailed. The film is based in part on Fleming’s own experiences helping to raise the son of a man with whom he’d had a 23-year relationship.
“I wasn’t a parent, do you know what I mean?” says Fleming, known for Hamlet 2, The Craft, and Threesome, a 1994 romantic comedy that featured a gay central character. “I went into it saying, ‘I’m not going to be your father, I’m not going to be a parent, I’m just like, the person living in the house. But I realized over time that I helped raise him, that I was parental in some way.
“The big lessons are just being around, and being yourself, and imparting whatever you can, in whatever way you can, with a good heart. They learn by seeing what you do. I was also a really good cook, and he learned how to cook. He learned to be a food snob.”
Fleming has nothing but praise for his two stars, who play off each other magnificently throughout. “As actors, they are unafraid. They were not hesitant in any way. The relationship in that movie is not that hot and bothered beginning of a relationship where it’s all sexy and everybody is seducing everybody. It’s when things run aground. So there wasn’t really that much sexuality. But,” he laughs, “there is some butt fucking.”
Early drafts of the script contained “a bit of preachiness,” but Fleming ultimately removed the film’s political overtones. “Why do we need to try to make a point? If you’ve made it through the movie, you’re already on the right side.” Still, when the film was completed, he created a touching end credits sequence designed to drive the comedy’s greater point of same-sex parenthood home.
“I feel like the idea of the gay family, it’s always looked on as, ‘Well, isn’t that admirable?'” he says. “There’s this kind of patronizing attitude towards gay families…. But maybe it’s possible that those kids are the absolute luckiest kids in the world, that it’s the best possible place for them to be, in that home. Because my partner’s son is just like a masterpiece of a kid. He’s the least neurotic person I know. He’s really smart. He’s really happy and well-adjusted. And he was brought up by two gay men.”
Ideal Home screens Friday, June 22, at 7 p.m. at the Human Rights Campaign, 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, as part of the Reel Affirmations Xtra series. Tickets are $12, or $25 for VIP seating, which also includes one complimentary cocktail, beer, or wine, and movie candy or popcorn. Visit thedccenter.org/events/idealhome.