It’s a tough gig, playing a blatant tearjerker’s over-the-top character without turning it into a camp-ing trip; even the grande dames of Hollywood’s Golden Age couldn’t always find the right middle ground between histrionics and heart. So attention must be paid to Alan Cumming and what he accomplishes in this melodrama about a gay couple who take in and care for an abused, mentally disabled teen (Isaac Leyva). That’s not to take away from his costar Garret Dillahunt, an underrated, always reliable actor (see Deadwood) who plays the romantic partner and straight man, as it were, to Cumming’s perpetually wisecracking female impersonator. Or to diminish how director Travis Fine handles this weepie’s setup with such refreshing assuredness. It’s just that Cumming’s performance, a perfect balance of flamboyance, humanity, vulnerability, paternal love and righteous anger (with a Queens accent, no less), is such a beautifully layered turn that you can’t help but fixate on the star. It’s the best work he’s done to date.
“I like happy endings,” the young man says at one point, and you can guess that, happy home-movies montage or not, this tragedy won’t be skewing that way. Alas, your worries that the story’s central issue—the impossibility of gay adoption in 1979—may fall prey to message-mongering will prove not to be unfounded as well. As the duo fights vainly for legal custody of their ward, so, too, do the actors struggle against a script that devolves into Lifetime Channel hand-wr