Second Best

"Good"

Second Best Review


An embittered writer's movie about the coruscating damage of jealousy and the impossibility of finding nobility in failure, Second Best has a pretty good time with its characters, even with all the sad sacks on display. Written and directed by Eric Weber, it's all about Elliot Kelman (Joe Pantoliano), a former publishing executive who bombed out and returned to his small New Jersey hometown - more than a whiff of autobiography here, as Weber was once a big-city ad exec but now lives in a small town and writes screenplays - where he spends his time obsessing over his failure and that of his group of friends. As a means of getting his creative juices out (or simply rubbing his depression in everybody's face), Elliot writes a weekly missive about "The Loser," which he is too scared will be rejected and so just prints up several thousand of them and hires a high school kid to leave them around town. And so, Elliot's self-hating, barely-fictionalized musings about why he and others like him are failures, and why it's better to acknowledge that than delude themselves, flutter in the wind, taped to delicatessen windows, stuffed under windshield wipers, blowing down the street.

The big event awaited by Elliot's friends - a bum but friendly bunch that include a broke real estate agent, an ER doctor and an older guy with prostate cancer - is the arrival of their old friend, movie magnate Richard (Boyd Gaines), whose newest blockbuster just won a slew of Oscars. The jealousy that envelops all of is deadly, of course, but at least Richard lets them play at a nice golf course, so it's not all bad. Although Weber doesn't go the expected route by turning Richard into a preening Hollywood villain, that doesn't stop Elliot (who sells suits at the mall and cadges money from everybody he knows, including his nursing home-confined mother) from feeling bitterly resentful at his friend's wealth and success.

As a meditation on just what it's like to be a failure (a subject just about never dealt with honestly, or even tangentially, by Hollywood), Second Best is heartbreakingly honest. There's no big redemption waiting for Elliot and his buddies, we're not going to see them move beyond their small and somewhat ragged lives, because in a sense there's no need for them to. The film belongs in the small but nevertheless grand tradition of New Jersey idylls (Trees Lounge and Garden State, mostly), in which the characters' small and seemingly passionless lives are suffused with a lyrical sense of suburban peace and beauty. Also like those films, this is all about the actors, with Pantoliano more than holding his own, eschewing the mannered tics that have been cluttering up his performances of late, and snapping off his lines of dialogue like a Beat poet gone to seed in the suburbs. The supporting cast does wonders as well, especially Gaines, whose quietly assured work as the big shot coming home to hang with his deadbeat friends is shockingly genuine. Somewhere along the way, there's also Jennifer Tilly as a sexy crossing guard ("Carole with an 'e'" she breathes in her Monroe-on-helium voice), showing up for no other reason than some badly needed humor - and estrogen.

Although DV-shot, and somewhat raggedy at that, and filled with loathing and a rather filthy sense of humor, this is a surprisingly peaceful film, more concerned with shady streets than grim close-ups of the haunted writer at work. Proof that the suburbs aren't all bad.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th September 1994

Distributed by: Warner Home Video

Production compaines: Regency Enterprises, Alcor Films, Fron Film Production

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 6

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Graham Holt, Nathan Yapp as Jimmy, as John, as Debbie, as Bernard, as Uncle Turpin

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.