The Next Big Thing

on May 29, 2002 by Kim Williamson
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   A romantic comedy of humor and feeling, if modest amounts of each, "The Next Big Thing" paints a none-too-realistic picture of the New York art scene. Into its canvas is placed starving artist Gus Bishop ("Kicking and Screaming's" Chris Eigeman), who loses his tired-of-poverty girlfriend Florence (Janet Zarish) and becomes embroiled in a scheme with petty thief Deech Scumble (Jamie Harris) and larcenous P.I. Walter Sznitken (Mike Starr) to create a fictional tormented recluse painter, Geoffrey Buonardi--whose works take the Manhattan art world by storm. Meanwhile, Gus faces a sort of shotgun wedding when his ex, wanting to share in his success and threatening to reveal the fraud, comes back to him, even as he is falling in love with art critic Kate (Connie Britton).

   The depth of satire in "The Next Big Thing" can be discerned in several of the character names--another is that of gallery owner Arthur Pomposello (Farley Granger)--and the film suffers for it; helmer PJ Posner and co-writer Joel Posner (the brother duo who scripted "Swingers") likewise fail to realize that the audience impact of a film's lead character is either elevated or enervated by the strength or weakness of the characters with whom he interacts, and although the supporting cast do fine jobs their parts are written at caricature level.

   Fortunately, the Posners chose Eigeman as their lead, and--despite his usual apparently lackadaisical presence onscreen--the actor's driving insistence to reach some meaningful point with his Gus pushes "The Next Big Thing" into otherwise undeserved success. The results are hardly Whit Stillman-like in insight--Eigeman having worked with that filmmaker in "Metropolitan," "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco"--yet none-too-demanding art-house audiences or multiplex moviegoers willing to give a small film a try will likely leave with pleasant enough memories.    Starring Chris Eigeman, Jamie Harris, Connie Britton, Janet Zarish and Mike Starr. Directed by PJ Posner. Written by Joel Posner and PJ Posner. Produced by Anthony Fierberg and Amy Hobby. A Castle Hill release. Romantic comedy. Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity. Running time: 87 min.

Tags: Chris Eigeman, Jamie Harris, Connie Britton, Janet Zarish, Mike Starr. Directed by PJ Posner. Written by Joel Posner and PJ Posner. Produced by Anthony Fierberg and Amy Hobby. A Castle Hill release. Romantic comedy
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