The Next Best Thing

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This is one long mess, but Madonna, as Abbie, a needy yoga teacher who decides having a baby with gay best friend Robert (Everett) is the closest she'll get to playing happy families, is only partly to blame. What she's brilliant at is insouciance, wax-museum kitsch and, in her pop videos, even weakness, of the blissfully OTT 'Baby Jane' kind. But honest to goodness vulnerability? Madonna looks the modern singleton's part, but she can't make the woundedness stick. One scene only is cause for celebration, wherein her bolshie body is allowed to do all the talking. It's the little boy's birthday and a wrung-out Abbie is glaring at Robert as he allows himself to be flirted with. It's not just panic and envy we see in her eyes, but lust, a real noir look, ablaze with neurotic life. But this lovely, dangly moment - one of the few times director Schlesinger lets himself sit back and observe - is soon a distant memory, for the film has a seizure and decides it wants to be Kramer vs Kramer.

Release details

Duration: 108 mins

Cast and crew

Director: John Schlesinger
Screenwriter: Thomas Ropelewski
Cast: Madonna
Rupert Everett
Bejamin Bratt
Michael Vartan
Josef Sommer
Malcolm Stumpf
Lynn Redgrave
Neil Patrick Harris
Illeana Douglas
Gavin Lambert
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