THE CIVIL-RIGHTS flick is a hard movie genre to navigate. The film needs to rev up its audience and get them excited about the topic. But to truly succeed, the movie can't rely on too many cloying moments that minimize its message.

"Any Day Now," so named for a line in the Band song "I Shall Be Released," initially handles its subject matter with grace, but its message, while important, is treated with anything but subtlety.

Director Travis Fine's film is set in 1979, when nightclub singer Rudy (Alan Cumming) meets straight-laced lawyer Paul (Garret Dillahunt). Just as their love blossoms, Rudy takes in Marco (Isaac Leyva), a boy with Down syndrome whose mother is a junkie.

Rudy and Paul treat Marco as their own, but the law of the time doesn't (and in many cases, still doesn't) look fondly on two gay men seeking custody of an unwanted child. To put things in perspective, California law in 1979 would allow people with histories of substance and domestic abuse to serve as legal guardians, but there was no precedence for a gay couple looking for the same rights.

Although lines like "Here's your chance to kick open that closet door and do something" are a heavy-handed reminder that this is a message movie, Dillahunt, Leyva and especially Cumming elevate the material.

Cumming is excellent as Rudy, with his twinkling eyes and put-upon thick Queens accent. Cumming is known for his arch portrayals, but other than certain "Rudy-isms" (when Paul asks what Rudy would do if child services came to take Marco away, he responds: "Then me and Marco will hit the road like fugitives. I can already see my outfit . . . I'll look fabulous."), Cumming plays the role with a deep earnestness, an opportunity not often provided him.