Magazine article The Spectator

Madonna and Child

Magazine article The Spectator

Madonna and Child

Article excerpt

Possibly The Next Best Thing lives up to its title if you schedule it immediately after colorectal surgery. But for the rest of us it's about as worst as it gets. Its 107 minutes include just one true moment. The remaining 106 are entirely artificial, and not in some giddy, effervescent romantic-fantasy way but only as a dreary succession of trite contrivances. The star is Madonna, playing herself more or less, if you can imagine Madonna as a Los Angeles yoga instructor. Its theme is non-traditional families, a subject which Madonna knows something about: her first child was sired by Carlos the personal trainer, her impending second has been supplied by Guy the British film director, which socially is surely a notch or two down from a personal trainer. As our story begins, Madonna the Yogi's biological clock is ticking so loudly you'd think there's a huge bomb somewhere. And there is: the film.

Madonna plays Abbie, whose latest failed relationship ends when her boyfriend Kevin tells her, `I want to date less complicated women.' Enter Rupert Everett as her best friend Robert, a gay gardener looking for more out of life than just spending his days laying sods and cultivating pansies. He is weary of `the parties and the pills'. And, when you're tired of the parties and pills, domestic bliss with a little homebody like Madonna is not without appeal. One Fourth of July, they find themselves high on cocktails and dancing around the living room to Fred Astaire's `Stepping Out With My Baby'. Prophetic words.

The living room, incidentally, is the size of a football stadium. If you've got it, flaunt it: when you're raking in the green in highend professions like gardener or yoga instructor, why pretend you're having to grub along on, say, a studio vice-president's salary?

Anyway, after `Stepping Out With My Baby', they fall into bed, and soon Madonna is with child. When baby shows up, Robert decides not to step out: he wants to stay and be a real dad, even though he and Madonna are fundamentally incompatible - he's British, while Madonna delivers her lines in an ersatz-British accent whose weirdness is only partially mitigated by the fact that it's apparently the way she now speaks (since Evita anyway). After some early camp - including a scene where the gay guy swishes into the straight guy's recording studio and pretends to be his exlover - the film settles briefly into an opulent California haze:

Summertime and the livin' is easy

Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high

Oh, your daddy's gay and your ma is Madonna

But hush, little baby, don't you cry . …

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