The Australian director of Muriel's Wedding, P.J. Hogan, goes to Hollywood, and his jaunty approach to color, to fashion, to pop music (in Muriel's..., it was the Greatest Hits of ABBA; in My Best Friend's..., it's predominantly the canon of Burt Bacharach and Hal David), has survived the journey intact. Granted, he has had to accept as part of the bargain a period of indentured servitude to Julia Roberts. To the paramount task, that is, of making her look good. Following her every glance. Monitoring her every heartbeat. Documenting her complete limited repetitive repertoire. He accepts this bargain with good grace, and with the clever, even daring strategy of turning all that cranked-up star power against itself. The role requires Roberts to strive to sabotage the imminent nuptials of an old flame (Dermot Mulroney); the bride-to-be (Cameron Diaz, the rare actress who can match Roberts in fatness of lip and broadness of smile) has trustingly placed the traitor in the advantageous position of maid-of-honor. The audience's partisanship naturally inclines toward Roberts -- she's the star, after all; and she's the one who's sharing her emotions with the spectator, so openly, in point of fact, as to disqualify her as a saboteur -- but the natural inclination is gradually undermined by her increasingly inexcusable behavior. A faint tone of morality emerges. Distinct traces of intelligence can be detected. And the definition of "friend" is put up for contemplation and comment. It's a surprising and a refreshing development, and it doesn't come to pass all at once. Into the widening breach between audience and actress steps Rupert Everett as the voice of sanity, and a witty voice to boot. This is a stock role -- the homosexual confidant with no apparent love life of his own; the homosexual, moreover, obliged for the purposes of romantic game-playing to pretend to be straight. To the familiarness of this role, however, Everett brings an unfamiliar, an unprecedented deftness and subtlety, elegance and ease. He makes it almost new again. (1997) — Duncan Shepherd
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