Lazily directed by Oscar-winner John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) with an eye towards his actors' muscle tone rather than characterisations (even the kid does yoga), the faults in The Next Best Thing aren't solely on the shoulders of its miscast stars, but rather the painfully inept screenplay by Tom Ropelewski (Look Who's Talking Now). With cardboard dialogue that sounds like bad first-draft material--including wailing by Madonna about how she can't find a man (ha!) and a gym-buffed Everett complaining about gay male body image (double ha!)--the movie stumbles from domestic comedy to custody-suit tragedy when it takes a bizarre left turn in the third act. Any statements about new definitions of family are buried underneath these dubious events, which (of course) provide teary courtroom outbursts for both leads. Everett has a quick way with a one-liner, and Madonna is more relaxed than she's ever been in a film, but Schlesinger just tosses them in front of the camera with no help whatsoever; the supporting cast, including Lynn Redgrave, Neil Patrick Harris, and Illeana Douglas, is also left to flounder inexplicably. There's a thoughtful and provocative movie to be made about gay parents, but The Next Best Thing certainly isn't it. --Mark Englehart, Amazon.com
Let me start by saying that I think it's unfair of anyone to say that Madonna cannot act. We've all seen Evita, and as much as it was a dangerous gamble re-creating a musical on screen, Madonna shone in that - and has the Golden Globe to prove it. Yet we still go on about how terrible an actress she is. The trouble with someone as successful as Madonna, and as creative and fortunate as Madonna, is that when she does something that doesn't quite match the standard to which we expect it is BIG news! Finally, she's not as good as everyone is saying. She isn't the Genius everyone says she is. Having this ammunition is great for detractors and people who don't really like Madonna. It always gets raked up.
However, Madonna doesn't shine so much in this film. What is apparent from time to time in this film is her comic timing (something which I think was visibly impressive, yet totally inappropriate in Swept Away) which is actually quite good. Personally I'd like to see Madonna in a proper good rom-com - something like My Best Friends Wedding could be perfect for her to turn her hand to - let's not forget that even an Oscar-winning actress like Julia Roberts has played her fair share of non-credible yet totally fabulous roles. Madonna, like with her music, wants to be the best. She wants adoration, recognition, appreciation (the Kabbalah seriously hasn't affected her appetite and ambition in that sense) and perhaps she won't actually find it in acting.
With this in mind, she could still be a good actress, starring in fun, up-beat films that people like.... Read more ›
Approaching this as a social concern issue, at different parts of the film I would have different responses. Certain by the end of the film, as the child had come to recognise Robert as 'dad', it would only do harm to the child to break this relationship. However, the question of whether there is a realistic prospect of even the best of friends living together in such a manner as Abbie and Robert, when both are likely (and in fact in the movie, did, albeit rather perfunctorially until the end) to want to continue to have intimate adult relationships before long, no matter how much they subordinate these desires in consideration of the child. It is a family arrangement almost certainly doomed to failure, particularly given Abbie's history of not being able to achieve a successful, sustained relationship.
With regard to the film as itself, Rupert Everett is the saving grace of the film. Madonna is not, I think, as bad as many people think, in this film. She does a good and credible job. But her character lacked a multi-dimensionality that the script tried to hide by interjecting diversions (the yoga, the unconventional household arrangement, etc. -- these things are intended to give more 'character' to the Madonna's character, or, like a magician's assistant, divert your attention from the fact there's not much substance there). Everett's character is only somewhat more fleshed out, but only in one real direction.
The subplots are, alas, unsuccessful -- we don't get enough detail or enough emotion.... Read more ›
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