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The next best thing

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Best friends make the best mistakes.

A comedy-drama about best friends - one a straight woman, Abbie (Madonna), the other a gay man, Rufus (Rupert Everett) - who decide to have a child together. Five years later, Abbie falls in love with a straight man and wants to move away with her and Rufus' little boy Sam (Malcolm Stumpf), and a nasty custody battle ensues.

Also starring Benjamin Bratt as Ben, Illeana Douglas as Elizabeth, Stacy Edwards, Neil Patrick Harris as David, Suzanne Krull as Annabel, Michael Vartan as Kevin, Linda Larkin as Kelly, Kimberley Davies as the hostess, Lynn Redgrave as Helen Whittaker and Josef Sommer as Richard Whittaker. Written by Rupert Everett and Tom Ropelewski, directed by John Schlesinger.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Ahhh... irony.

Don't get too excited, though. Despite The next best thing being an American film, it was written by a gay Englishman so irony is to be expected. But wait, there's more! There's unhappiness, death, broken trust, dirty dealings and an unhappy ending. Woo hoo!

Starting at the top, Madonna's characterisation of Abbie is totally human. It ignores public idolatry, image making and personal assistants to wrap you up in a funny, flawed and fervent human being. Rupert's Rufus is the same: a big gay man running around living a big gay life surrounded by life-size gay men. Some may find the stereotypes objectionable but they shouldn't because that's what many gay men are like! (I should know, I've had enough of them as flatmates.) Everyone else is just as good as these two and it was especially great to see Doogie Howser being an angry young queen. What has that boy been up to?

The next best thing is an incredibly funny film (the gay men get all the best lines, just like in real life), but it is also incredibly painful. The descent of Abbie and Rufus from devoted fag and hag to contestants in a bitter custody battle begins just before the zenith of the relationship and ends just after the nadir. The ending is open enough that anything could happen but hard enough that you don't really want to know. If you're the crying type, bring your own supply of tissues: you'll need them.

There's a lot of man muscle flashed about the screen for gay men and their fag hags to enjoy (non-fag hag women might also find this attractive) which is a big change from naked women romping around with fully clothed men (Low level porn). There's also a lot of love expression, yet another gay thing that extends to everyone around them. Malcolm jumps straight into physical intimacy and climbs all over everyone he meets, kissing and cuddling the way a child (and an adult) should. The world would be a better place if only everyone would get along more.

What else? You don't have to be gay or a fag hag to enjoy this film. In fact you can be a straight couple and you will still find that it gets to you. That's the joy of a good script and a good cast. The next best thing is a comedy, a romance and a drama wrapped up so tight that no strand can be separated from the others. That's the way a film should be, just like life.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Languages: English
  • Picture: Widescreen 2.35:1
  • Subtitles: English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, English captions

Security censorship classification

M (Low level coarse language, adult themes)

Surveillance time

107 minutes (1:47 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 29 November 2000
DVD retail: 24 April 2002
VHS retail: 24 April 2002

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