New Best Friend

2002, Movie, R, 91 mins

Review

NEW BEST FRIEND
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A late-night cable sexploitation romp masquerading as a thriller about the ruthless social order that governs college cliques. The only daughter of a single mother, Alicia Glazer (Mia Kirshner) has worked hard and sacrificed to get through Colby University, whose student body is mostly rich and fabulous. So how did she wind up bruised and comatose from a massive cocaine overdose? Mrs. Glazer (Glynis Johns) places the blame squarely on Hadley (Meredith Monroe), Sidney (Dominique Swain) and Julianne (Rachel True), the pack of spoiled, manipulative limousine lushes who recently took an inexplicable interest in mousy little Alicia. In fact, Mrs. Weston has gone so far as to accuse them of murder, forcing acting Sheriff Artie Bonner (Taye Diggs) to look into the matter. But he's warned by university brass to tread lightly and investigate discretely: Colby is the town's financial anchor and boat-rocking is discouraged, especially if Artie wants to advance to permanent sheriff. Unfortunately for Artie, it's obvious from his first meeting with the campus queens that they're hiding something, and he's compelled to dig deeper. Through a series of interviews with the girls, their boy-toyfriends (Scott Bairstow, Oliver Hudson and Eric Michael Cole) and others, Artie learns that Alicia was paired with Hadley for a Sociology assignment involving environment and social relationships, and got sucked into Hadley's glittering circle. There, she simultaneously got a seductive taste of the high life and learned that the golden girls have feet of clay: One's bulimic, another drinks because she's starved for paternal attention, and the third, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, is a predatory, bisexual slut. Alicia's conduct isn't in question: She quickly adopted her mentors' snobby, hard-partying ways, neglected her studies and cut her old friends dead. But accounts differ as to her character: Was Alicia a naive bookworm corrupted by her new best friends' wicked, wicked ways, or a Machiavellian hoyden willing to do anything (and anyone) to get ahead? Told in a fragmented series of flashbacks that feel as though they ought to add up to a RASHOMON-like account of events but don't, this handsome but hollow thriller is mostly an excuse for Swain, Monroe and Kirshner to dress slutty and act trashy; True is largely spared their fates because her character is apparently meant to be more mixed up than wicked. And the worst part is, the film isn't even enjoyably sleazy: It's just dumb and tacky. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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