The Next Best Thing

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Steven Isaac

Movie Review

Gay culture collides headfirst with parenthood when Robert (a homosexual) has sex with his straight friend Abbie. Shortly thereafter, she turns up pregnant and gives birth to Sam. “Bored” with the world of parties and “body obsession” that he’s accustomed to, Robert decides to move in with Abbie and become a father—but not a husband. He makes that quite clear. The arrangement just begs for trouble, and trouble comes in spades.

Positive Elements: Abbie and Robert love Sam deeply. Robert teaches the boy how not to succumb to the petty, hurtful things others say. While it doesn’t change his actions, at one point Robert acknowledges a double standard that exists in the gay community regarding tolerance: while the idea of tolerance is held up as the golden standard, it seems to only apply to those who are gay or support those who are gay. Anyone who dissents, or chooses to leave the “gay world” is shunned and ridiculed. Beyond that, at best, this film details how confused, messed up and destructive life can become in the wake of wrong decisions. Not that the filmmaker intended such a view, moviegoers are forced to read between the lines to extract this particular “positive element.”

Spiritual Content: At the funeral of a gay lover, David remarks, “I hate all this gothic hocus pocus. I feel like I’m in The Omen.” Later when Robert announces he’s a father, David mocks him saying, “Praise the lordie, she’s been reformed. Call Jerry Falwell!” Abbie teaches Yoga.

Sexual and Homosexual Content/Nudity: Drunken indulgence leads to sex between Abbie and Robert (the pair is shown kissing beforehand and waking up afterwards). Robert is shown in bed with a man presumably after a homosexual tryst. Several rude comments and jokes pop up about both straight and gay sex. Abbie dresses and undresses onscreen. Nearly full rear nudity and partial breast nudity results. Graphic photos of a woman giving birth are briefly flashed across the screen.

Violent Content: Virtually none. Abbie slaps Robert across the face in a domestic fight.

Crude or Profane Language: One f-word and a half-dozen s-words, plus a smattering of other profanity. God’s name is abused a couple of times. The crass terms b–ch, queer and faggot are used.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Robert smokes cigarettes frequently. Robert and Abbie drink themselves into oblivion, imbibing on martinis, margaritas and other mixed drinks. Abbie gets drunk on wine at a restaurant with Ben.

Other Negative Elements: Traditional families are minimized repeatedly. “You don’t need to have a man to have a baby,” Robert tells Abbie. “This is the twenty-first century.” When a freshly dumped Abbie asks, “What is it with straight guys in L.A.,” the response is, “There aren’t any.”

Summary: It’s one thing to demonstrate respect for those caught in homosexuality, it’s quite another to promote the lifestyle. The entire point of The Next Best Thing is to expose the general public to the ideas and passions of the gay community. And it shamefully uses a child as its lynch pin. The pairing of a gay man and a straight woman to raise Sam works splendidly for six years until Abbie falls in love with another man. When Robert refuses to “bow out gracefully,” the courts are enlisted to settle their dispute. What results is an ugly custody battle over the innocent child. The script implies that if Abbie had not met another man Robert would have continued to be a splendid father.

The movie preaches gay equality, if not gay superiority in the arena of the family. Indeed, after Abbie and Robert have sex, Abbie becomes disappointed with his “morning-after” demeanor. She says, “I expected more from you Robert, being a gay man and all.” The Next Best Thing sees nothing wrong whatsoever with the homosexual lifestyle, and therefore becomes the next worst thing on Hollywood’s lengthening list of pro-gay releases.

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Steven Isaac