The Next Best Thing

Happy family? Robert, Abbie and Sam (Everett, Madonna and Stumpf) find their cozy life changing when the man of Abbie's dreams (Bratt) enters the scene.
dir John Schlesinger scr Thomas Ropelewski
with Madonna, Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt, Lynne Redgrave, Illeana Douglas, Michael Vartan, Neil Patrick Harris, Josef Somer, Malcolm Stumpf, Stacy Edwards, Jack Betts, William Mesnik
Universal 00/US 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
You'd think a Madonna-Rupert film would at least be entertaining, no matter how bad the script/direction were. Guess again. The Next Best Thing starts promisingly enough, with funny sequences and a nice set-up to the characters and relationships. Then it throws coherence and logic out the window to get very serious ... and to try and make a point we've all heard before.

Abbie and Robert (Madonna and Everett) are best pals She's an L.A. yoga instructor who's just broken up with her boyfriend (Vartan); he's a gardener who's gay and unattached. In each other they find solace and deep friendship. And after several drinks one night, a moment of passion, pregnancy and a baby boy who they raise together. Jump ahead six years and Abbie has finally found Mr Right (Bratt), who wants to move to New York with Abbie and son Sam (Stumpf). So Robert is forced to take legal action against his best friend.

Until the film takes this nasty, bitter turn, it's quite enjoyable and entertaining. Everett has impeccable comic timing, and lights up every scene he's in. Madonna clings to her character tenaciously (OK, let's face it, she can't act in non-iconic roles). Despite Schlesinger's feeble attempts to direct the film as it if was a glamorous 1940s screwball comedy (not even close), some of the dialogue snaps with life and wit. Then these two soul mates turn on each other with a sudden vindictiveness. This isn't a married couple falling apart after a betrayal or a slow-burning malaise. They just get mean because the script forces them to. It doesn't work. And it's painful to watch as it gets worse and worse until we start feeling queasy watching it. Yes, it's that bad.

[12--adult themes and situations, language] 1.Jun.00
US release 3.Mar.00; UK release 23.Jun.00

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best friends make the best mistakes "I picked this because the storyline intrigued me. Madonna plays Abbie, a single, intelligent yoga instructor who just been dumped by her boyfriend, basically because she was too smart for him - he wanted someone who would stay in the background when people came over. Everett plays her gay best friend Robert, a gardener. On the 4th of July they party and drown their sorrows - both have just lost their lovers - in the fit of an alcholic booze, and each needing comfort ... well, you get the picture. Abbie later discovers she is pregnant, informs Robert he is the dad, and they decide to live together and raise their son. Two best friends having a baby and living together - happily ever after, right? Wrong. Children grow up, ask questions - adults need more than friendship. Their son Sam turns 6 and asks why Mommy & Daddy don't sleep in the same bedroom. He's told it's because Mommy snores. I liked this movie because it showed that just because you think you have it all figured out, you don't - and sometimes you have to make hard painful decisions, because it is what you have to do. When Abbie meets Ben (Bratt) and falls in love, suddenly Robert feels left out and is afraid he will lose his son. No compromise will make him happy; he does not want visitation, he wants Sam. What is the right decision here, and who should raise Sam? It made me really think. A good movie about people and relationships and decisions that must be made. Madonna is awesome as Abbie, and I liked the way Rupert played Robert." --Laurie T, Minneapolis.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall