Second Best is the story of five male baby boomers all nearing 50. They graduated from college together, ready to take on the world, but only one of the group has done exceptionally well. His visit back East to hang out with the old gang triggers the most intense feelings of inadequacy and "second bestness," particularly in his oldest and closest friend. Written by
[reading from his printed leaflet]
So here I am, gang - kicked out of a job and a house, scrounging from my mom, my ex-wife, my son, and guess what: my oldest friend Richard is coming to town, and I beg him to stay with me. Richard has kept his hair, his looks, his money; and pretty much runs Hollywood. You'd think he wouldn't have the time of day for his old buddies back East. You know, he's never once turned his back on me. Not once. Always kind, totally open, lends me money, and never asks ...
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Thank God for the marvelous cast of character actors who winningly portray a group of born losers facing up to the awful truth!
Depending on your point-of-view, this story of 'Elliot', a self-proclaimed loser, is alternately depressing and amusing as it follows the travails of the ultimate frustrated writer. His animosity towards the world grows when he can't get published and is forced to post his 'literary' work around town on flyers stuck to telephone poles.
Then, to his surprise, Elliot's pseudo-'fictional' prose gets a response as it begins to strike a chord with his fellow downtrodden underachievers. But as pungent and funny as some of Elliot's observations may be to audience members, they do manage to strike his 'serious' readers close to the heart while at the same time aiming alarmingly closer to the bone of his close friends and associates.
Perfectly cast as said loser 'Elliot' is veteran actor Joe 'Joey Pants' Pantoliano who's supporting work in big-budget films like "The Matrix" and "Memento" has finally garnered him a major film role (of sorts). Elliot's sardonic wit gets a many-layered recitation from Pantoliano's lips (via voice-over primarily) as he perfectly captures the psychological depression and self-abuse that goes along with being the eternal outsider. Not to mention the even more deplorable fact that Elliot is a man who's sunk so low he's willing to borrow money from his ex-wife, mother, AND son just to maintain his paltry existence (and help pay for the flyers).
Elliot's polar opposite is his mega-successful childhood pal 'Richard', well-played with jaded zeal by veteran stage actor Guy Boyd, who continually dodges Elliots questions regarding a potential screenplay to be developed. Richard's knowledge of the business prevents his recognition of Elliot's populist appeal, leaving him with unenviable task of having to bring Elliot back to reality. Between them there is also an underlying jealousy which fuels their need to score decidedly humorous zingers against each other. Both Pantoliano and Boyd make the most of these verbal duels making these scenes the most enjoyable of the film.
The rest of the supporting cast is also above par and each character is given a choice moment to respond to Elliot's damnation of their feeble existences. The losers gang also provides plenty of comic relief throughout the film from the golf course to the local singles bar.
If it weren't for the reality TV audio quality and subpar video transfer this film would be very easy to recommend. However, if you feel that film is a visual medium and your theater isn't projecting this film in its original digital format then you might want to wait for the DVD. It'll be just as funny as a small-screen experience and a lot cleaner technically.
However, if you are the losingest loser in your neighborhood then maybe you should watch a second rate print of "Second Best" just to soothe your damaged ego. In any case, you've been warned.
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