(US); 2000; Rated PG-13; 110 Minutes
Rupert Everett: Robert
Benjamin Bratt: Ben
Michael Vartan: Kevin
Josef Sommer: Richard Whittaker
Lynn Redgrave: Helen Whittaker
Produced by Leslie Dixon, Gary Lucchesi, Lewis Manilow,
Linne Radmin, Tom Rosenberg, Ted Tannebaum, Marcus Viscidi
and Richard S. Wright; Directed by John Schlesinger;
Screenwritten by Thomas Ropelewski
by DAVID KEYES
got to applaud Madonna. Here is a woman who has managed
to weather every harsh criticism that has come her way in
the past 17 years, both with her controversial music and
her considerably-mixed movies. She's undefeatable; invulnerable
to the heaviest of offenses and cruelest of remarks. But
that shouldn't stop her from worrying a bit about certain
aspects of her career.
she's one of the greatest women of all time; cinematically,
however, very little has helped establish her as a hardworking
actress. There are a couple of exceptions--both "A League
Of Their Own" and "Evita" showcased talents that we never
thought she had to begin with--but most work is, bluntly,
complete crap. A 1993 film called "Body Of Evidence" would
be exhibit A if there were ever trials that could prosecute
actors for horrible roles.
newest effort, "The Next Best Thing," proves that she is
not the bad actress so many have denounced her as. Unfortunately
the movie, like so many others in her career, is a complete
miscalculation: an exercise in wasted talent, fragmented
decency, useless plot devices, ill-conceived emergencies
and stale dialogue. Furthermore, it's amazing how a film
so filled with horrible things can manage to be so dreary
and dispiriting. Because each of her successful films seem
to be followed by three or four bad ones, perhaps Madonna
should take the advice of her peers and stick with the music.
At least there she doesn't have to worry about flops.
alongside Madonna are Rupert Everett and Benjamin Bratt,
who both play two men that anyone would love to see in the
electric chair. Madonna's character is Abbie, a Yoga instructor
stuck in the same old cycle: she dates, falls in love, and
gets dumped. At the opening of the movie, Robert (Everett)
is comforting Abbie with a recent breakup. They converse,
get liquored up, and--ironically--wind up in bed together.
Shortly afterwards, Abbie informs Robert that he is going
to be a father. He has gotten her pregnant.
discuss the options, and decide to live together so they
can raise the child. Five years pass, and Robert's relationship
with his son is strong. But Abbie begins dating again after
a near-permanent withdrawal from love. Her new beau this
time is Ben (Benjamin Bratt) who feels so strongly about
her that, after she falls for him, they discuss marriage.
Meanwhile Robert feels left in the dark by their decision
to movie 3,000 miles away--and with the kid. The movie shifts
from its comedic tone to a sappy melodramatic one at the
snap of a finger; when Abbie becomes a magnificent bitch
and attempts to keep her son away from Robert, a custody
screenplay never manages to even create a likable character;
so much time is spent on the insipid plot conventions that
their promising personas are altered beyond radical. There
are other shortcomings to them as well: Abbie is written
with so many similarities to Madonna's lifestyle (the Yoga
lessons, the gay best friend, and the noticeable English
accent) that it's not even amusing; Bratt's character Ben,
whom Abbie falls in love with, is squandered away by a story
that doesn't feel any compassion for his aspirations of
family life; and Rupert Everett, who is openly gay, creates
a screen persona which becomes so mean-spirited that one
wishes they could throw him off of a cliff.
there any good the movie? Some. The premise itself has its
potential to begin with--the idea that a gay guy could mistakenly
impregnate his best friend surely goes to show that filmmakers
and writers can still crank out simple but unique premises.
Then there's the closing credits featuring Madonna's beautiful
cover of Don McLean's "American Pie"--proof that we're dealing
with a marvelous artist here. But why is their so much cruelty
in the movie? Why does it feel so dreary and exercised?
Why does the plot resort to the shenanigans of a soap opera?
Why is Madonna using a British accent? Why is Rupert Everett
playing someone so incredibly despicable? And why, oh why,
does anyone think that Benjamin Bratt could succeed at this
kind of drivel? In a movie containing three great-looking
stars, it's amazing how very little is accomplished with
subtle believability. Putting their faces on the screen
without any dialogue or sound might have been more entertaining.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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