Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Next Best Thing (1999) Film Review
The Next Best Thing
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Rupert Everett is in his element and Madonna looks fit. They are best friends on and off screen, which tends to encourage self-indulgence and private jokes. Not here. They work extremely well together.
The film is either going to be fluffy camp, of semi-serious about a pressing social problem. The fluff side has Rupert being girlie and the serious stuff is trivialised by an artificial ending that leaves everything up in the air.
When Abbie's (Madonna) boyfriend does a bunk, she goes to Robert (Everett) for a shoulder to cry on. He works as a gardener for rich LA queens and spends much of the time with his shirt off. After a squiffy night on the Martinis, they end up in bed together, which is not supposed to happen, as he is gay.
The result of this drunken blunder is Sam (Malcolm Stumpf), who grows up into a normal happy child. Abbie and Robert live together, although don't marry, and share nursery duties, with Robert being surprisingly strict and deeply committed. When Abbie meets Ben (Benjamin Bratt), a pompous banker, and is desperate enough to fall in love with him, the question of custody and parental rights rears its litigious head.
The film should be stronger than it is, especially with John (Midnight Cowboy) Schlesinger directing. Thomas Ropelewski's script isn't sharp enough and Bratt's character is depressingly phoney. Everett hasn't been this good since The Madness Of King George and Madonna slips effortlessly through scene after scene. She is better than you want to believe.
By setting the plot up on such a frivolous level at the start, it is difficult to change direction once the going gets tough. The question of what makes a father and why it is relevant in law and life is far from stupid. Schlesinger and Co don't have the courage, or conviction, to follow through. It's a waste.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001