You can’t help but gush over The Next Best Thing (Paramount Pictures). And gush. And gush. The Next Best Thing will be added to your personal library, and all the lines will have to be memorized. The film has everything – shining stars, brilliant writing, and a must-buy soundtrack. And this movie has Madonna.
The story is both timely and endearing. Abbie (Madonna) is a yoga instructor whose biological clock is ticking away when her live-in boyfriend leaves her. In her time of distress she does what any other woman would do. She calls her best friend, Robert (Rupert Everett, My Best Friend’s Wedding), who can sympathize because he’s been having a tough time finding a man. They talk on cellular phones, and he instructs her to get dressed to kill and walk out with her dignity. Sound familiar? This moment easily could have been lifted from My Best Friend’s Wedding archive. However, it was adorable then, and it is again.
Now that Abbie is no longer spending most of her time with her beau, she has more time to spend with Robert. On the Fourth of July, they spend the night at the home of Robert’s friends’, whom he lovingly calls the evil queens. Abbie bedecks herself in one of the queen’s dresses, and Robert puts on a jacket, and they spend the evening waltzing around the house, drinking like fish and smashing into every piece of furniture. Fireworks go off, and boom – Abbie is pregnant.
The two agree to raise the child together despite their friend’s disapproval. They love each other, and it might be both of their last chances. Robert’s best friend, David, (Neil Patrick Harris, Stark Raving Mad) tells him that he could be ruining his chance for love, and Abbie’s giggly friends don’t seem to understand. They all turn out to be wrong, because when Sam is born, the two couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.
Until Ben (Benjamin Bratt) comes into the picture. Abbie immediately falls for him, leaving Robert out of the picture.
Abbie and Robert share everything together, except a bedroom. What ties them together, even when they feel torn apart, is their love for Sam. The boy is adorable, and while it might not be such an easy task to keep up with Everett’s energetic comedy, he puts up quite a fight.
Lynn Redgrave, who plays Robert’s mother, eloquently portrays the strong bond between a mother and son, even when Robert’s father fails to approve of his lifestyle. However, Redgrave and Everett are not quite believable as mother and son. How much personality can you get in one family?
While this film contains hysterical, sidesplitting moments, it is the dramatic scenes that demonstrate the depths of these actors. Madonna, at age 41, who took a hiatus from the big screen to make the album Ray of Light, shines in this role. Her character is strong – almost as strong as her biceps and triceps, but not quite.
Much of her own life goes into this film. Similarities to Madonna’s life off-screen include mothering her own baby, Lourdes, and a close friendship with Everett. As a side note, the once Material Girl practices yoga, like her character. She clearly puts a good deal of herself into the role, making this film sincere and heart-felt.
The Next Best Thing is playing in theaters.
This article appeared in the March 9, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.