“New Best Friend” is yet another in a long line of (seemingly neverending) films about How the Rich Lives, Gen-X style. That is, the film is about the Rich Kids of Rich People, and how “different” they are from us “normal” people. Of course it never seems to occur to the filmmakers that all of these Gen-X Richie Rich movies are all the same, consists of the same scenes, and invariably involves a Poor Girl/Boy who comes in to change things. Apparently seeing Rich Kids drink, sleep around, do drugs, drink some more, sleep around some more, and do more drugs (then repeat the process), is supposed to be interesting. It isn’t.
Mia Kirshner plays Alicia, the Poor Girl who becomes the new best friend of rich, blonde, and very beautiful Hadley (Meredith Monroe), after the two are forced together for a school project. Both girls are college seniors in an exclusive rich school in North Carolina, though how Alicia was admitted (since she’s rather poor and all) is a mystery. As the film opens, Alicia is in a coma in the hospital, apparently the victim of a drug overdose. Temporary sheriff Artie (Taye Diggs) is called in to investigate, while at the same time trying not to make waves at the exclusive college because his job is at stake.
The whole Gen-X Richie Rich genre is getting so stale that it’s nearly impossible to be surprised by it anymore. This is a rather surprising statement considering that the genre has only gained steam in the late ’90s. (There were other versions of it before, but it didn’t become this popular until, by my recollection, the Sarah Michelle Gellar film “Cruel Intentions”.)
The rich kids in “New Best Friend” drinks, does drugs, have sex, and drive around in fancy cars. Besides the fact that a crime has been committed with Alicia’s drug overdose, the film is nothing more than a long sequence of rich kids drinking some more, doing more drugs, and having even more sex (or insinuating sexual conquest, natch). The film actually only features two scenes of sexual content, and both are rather mild in regards to the film’s flamboyant treatment of (implied) sexual promiscuity.
Mia Kirshner (“The Crow 2”) is a gorgeous actress who has a lot of problems playing the poor girl. The film’s pathetic attempt to make her meek and “ugly” means she gets glasses, wears old baggy clothes, and slumps over a lot. Screenwriter Victoria Strouse’s version of Kirshner’s Poor Girl is actually the most interesting thing about “New Best Friend.” Once she’s been accepted into the rich girl fold, Alicia reveals herself to be something of a slut, and in no time has picked up all the bad habits of the Richie Rich crowd twice over and enjoying every minute of it. As it turns out, spoiled rich girl Hadley is our real star, and it doesn’t hurt that Meredith Monroe is stunning to look at.
Unfortunately screenwriter Strouse has seen one too many Gen-X Richie Rich movies, and besides giving us all the usual scenes of boozing, sexing, and drugging (then repeat the process), the characters all spout some inane and silly dialogue. It doesn’t help that none of the cast (with the exception of Scott Bairstow’s Trevor) is even remotely sympathetic, and the result is that we become easily bored watching these kids doing the usual things filmmakers think all Gen-X Rich Kids do.
As the Sheriff, Taye Diggs is grossly miscast, and while his character of a black Sheriff tentatively holding onto his job is interesting, Diggs simply is the wrong actor for the part. Even by the end of the movie, after Diggs’ Artie has buck the system and brings about justice, there’s no sense that Diggs’ character has developed anymore than he had in the beginning when he was walking on egg shells. Besides being wholly inarticulate, I believe Diggs is going for a Southern accent, and failing miserably at it.
If there is one good thing to be taken from “New Best Friend” it’s that the film went straight to video and never made it to theaters. This, I believe, can only be a good sign, as it indicates there’s no longer a viable appetite for this sort of formulaic movies out there anymore.
Zoe Clarke-Williams (director) / Victoria Strouse (screenplay)
CAST: Dominique Swain …. Sydney Connors
Taye Diggs …. Artie Bonner
Mia Kirshner …. Alicia Glazer
Meredith Monroe …. Hadley Weston
Oliver Hudson …. Josh
Rachel True …. Julianne McIntyre
Joanna Canton …. Sarah
Scott Bairstow …. Trevor