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Published March 17, 2018

Erasmus (Steve Coogan) is a star chef and Paul (Paul Rudd) is his TV show’s producer and partner of ten years. When Erasmus’s grandson (Jack Gore) arrives on their doorstep after his father, Erasmus’s estranged son Beau (Jake McDorman), is arrested, the pair struggle to understand their new role as parents.

Calling ‘Ideal Home’ a comedy feels a little out of place. It certainly has humour throughout its story, but it seems a disservice to the film’s core dramatic elements to try convincing people to see it on the basis of the jokes. This film is lovely, with fantastic heartfelt performances, but just because it’s also funny doesn’t really warrant calling it a ‘comedy’.

The absolute centre of this film are the performances of Paul Rudd and Jack Gore as Paul and the grandson. As the film progresses, the pair show a beautiful progression from antagonism to genuine affection which is absolutely endearing to watch.

That is not to say that Steve Coogan’s contributions as playful Id for the pair are anything less than stellar throughout the film; as the story’s source of frivolity and drama, Coogan brings a wonderful sense of levity to the film as a counter-weight to Rudd and Gore’s dramatic arcs. Without any one of these three, the film would not have worked as well as it does and, with all three, it works beautifully.

Writer and director Andrew Fleming, notable for me as the director of 1996’s The Craft, wrangles the three actors together very well, not allowing any one of them to dominate a scene too much and create either a po-faced or farcical mood.

I will admit that Coogan’s Erasmus felt a little overdone at the outset, calling to mind Mike Nichols’ The Birdcage and its use of homosexual male stereotypes without an equivalently stereotypical partner to bounce off. However, as the story progresses and especially in his scenes with Rudd, Coogan displays fantastic nuance in the role as he struggles with the realisation that to the shock of even himself there is nothing underneath his own flamboyant facade.

Paul Rudd, as the down-to-earth partner, is given far more freedom to display the stress and drama of the film’s story and he handles it so well. Of course, he’s still Paul Rudd, so when he’s given the opportunity for a little bit of clowning, he lands it, but between this and Duncan Jones’ Mute, I’m really starting to like Paul Rudd in moodier roles.

Beware coming into this film looking for a romp of any kind. While there are jokes throughout the film, the best part of it are the moments of real human connection and real human folly between Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd and Jack Gore. Overall, a beautifully constructed film full of wonderful performances.

Ideal Home is playing at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival on Sunday 18 March 2018. Get more information and buy tickets at the MQFF website.

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