The Next Best Thing

A trip to my local library on Friday resulted in my picking two movies, one being “The Nest Best Thing”, which I had not seen for a quite a long time. (The other one “Mystic Pizza”, a very nice movie that I can recommend.)

“The Next Best Thing” is a comedy-drama about best friends – one a straight woman, Abbie Reynolds (Madonna), the other a gay man, Robert Whittaker (Rupert Everett). In a night of drunken excess, they sleep together and she is pregnant as a result and they decide to set up home as a family, remaining best friends as they take on the joint responsibilities of parenthood. Six years later, Abbie falls in love with a straight man, Ben Cooper (Benjamin Bratt), who wants to move away with her and Robert’s little boy Sam, and a nasty custody battle ensues.

In spite of its receiving poor reviews when it was released, I like “The Next Best Thing”. To be honest, I was not expecting much from this movie. Although I love Madonna as a performer, her choice of movie projects has not always been great. Indeed, most have been completely dire. But I was actually rather surprised, because “The Next Best Thing” – though no masterpiece – is actually a pretty compelling movie, with solid performances all round and a convincing story, and though somewhat PC, it raises real social questions about rights and responsibilities towards children, without preaching. What could easily have become a very sickly sweet story is turned into a quite sombre piece about the loss of friendship and people’s true nature. Although Abbie and Robert are clearly the best of friends in the beginning, once the fight for their son ensues, their true natures become apparent. A child can make someone do things they thought they were not capable of to ensure its welfare. The movie also blends some nice moments of comedy along with the drama to even it out, which makes it all the more enjoyable. The one qualm I had with this movie was that it seemed to move along at lightning speed. You weren’t given much of a chance to get to know the characters as it swept along very quickly.

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