“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.” ~ Andrew Fleming
Andrew Fleming secured two stars for his film, Ideal Home, but could not a secure wide distribution. I’ve yet to find a screening, but decided to watch some other films from the two dads subgenre. Here’s how the plot goes: A dysfunctional male couple is given custody of an unhappy kid. The new dads fight with the kid and with each other. Finally they find an activity to bond over. Conflict arises when a foster home or deadbeat parent is found. The kid decides he’d rather stay with his new dads. Hearts are warmed.
Let’s look at a few examples (and some spoilers).
A closeted sportscaster (Tom Cavanagh) is thrown through a loop when his partner receives custody of his makeup wearing, musical loving nephew. Cavanagh tries to toughen up the boy and cope with his own internalized homophobia. He’s charismatic enough to elevate his misanthropic character but the rest of the cast coasts on easy stereotypes.
Moment of Darkness: Scot tries to impress his closeted dad by beating up another sensitive boy.
Moment of Heartwarming: After months of trying to mold the boy into a hockey pro, Cavanagh finally surrenders and gives the boy back his makeup and jewelry collection.
A social worker leaves two abandoned boys with a wealthy male couple. When their homeless, alcoholic, sex worker mother tracks them down the dads try to rehabilitate her. It’s clear they are putting the kids in danger but one dad has a dark past and identifies with the mom. Classism, illegal behavior and cringe comedy ensue. The klunky script has too many subplots and the green actors can’t carry it. This film feels endless.
Moment of Darkness: The 12 year old steals a gun and a car and tries to run away. The script is too scattered to provide any consequences for this.
Moment of Heartwarming: The “big” moments felt false but there was a nice scene of the now repentant 12 year old helping the dad change the oil on the returned car.
Dysfunctional male couple is given custody of a surly 15 year old (the vulnerable Tom Ljungman) due to a typographical error. One man flees leaving the other (an understated Gustaf Skarsgard) to care for the teen himself. The film is at its best when Skarsgard and Ljungman are just hanging out and becoming better people. Things dip when the creaky plot mechanics kick in.
Moment of Darkness: A male neighbor casually suggests that father and son are sleeping together. This conversation leads to violence.
Moment of Heartwarming: Patrik’s attempt to reconcile his now estranged dads.
- Exposition spouting social workers.
- Giant houses. (How wealthy do you have to be to adopt these days?)
- Casual homophobia from neighbors or educators.
- The hasty assembling of a bedroom.
- Embarrassing phone calls during work meetings.
- Dark monologues about the kid’s abusive past.
- Bad slapstick meant to provide comic relief.
- The “You were the one who wanted a child” argument between the dads.
- A negative view of the juvenile care system. Mention “group home” and every kid freaks out.
- A shaky understanding of how the adoption process works.
- Ideal Home (2018)
- The Kids Are All Right (2010)
- Modern Family (2009-present)
- The New Normal (2012-2013)
- My Straight Son (aka Azul y no tan rosa) (2012)
What are your thoughts on the films above? Which would you add to the list?
What makes a moment “heartwarming” rather than “manipulative?”
What aspects of LGBT parenting would you like to see portrayed on film?