There's nothing big about "The Next Big Thing," a feeble and tedious satire on the New York art scene. Director PJ Posner and co-writer Joel Posner mean to skewer the role mystique plays in establishing an artist's reputation, not a bad target, but their film is all strained artifice, inhabited by individuals who either lack dimension or are merely stereotypes. The result is a movie not nearly as amusing as its makers may think.
Gus Bishop (Chris Eigeman) is a struggling abstract painter who just can't get anyone to take notice of his work. Con man-thief Deech Scumble (Jamie Harris) lifts Bishop's wallet but ends up his artistic advisor. The problem, declares Deech, is that Gus is a white middle-class guy from New Brunswick, N.J., and therefore he is boring.
Deech renames Gus Geoff Buonardi and gives him a heart-rending history of hardship and suffering that includes exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Under his new alias, Gus is swiftly on his way, churning out more paintings in seclusion while Deech, as his representative, has a high time working the art-world social circuit. Gus is none too happy with this setup, and falling in love with pretty and influential art critic Kate Crowley (Connie Britton), who of course does not know Gus is actually Geoff, adds to his misery.
In the meantime, the ruse is easily uncovered by a private eye (Walter Snitzken) hired by a rich art collector (Janet Zarish) to locate the mysterious Buonardi. She's a woman not satisfied to get hold of paintings by a hot new artist--she has to devour the guy sexually as well.
The Posners have not developed any of these characters to the extent that they become distinctive, involving individuals, and the overly generous screen time allotted to Zarish's tiresomely shrill and aggressive art collector swiftly becomes a serious detriment to the film. The film's one bright spot is provided by Farley Granger as an urbane gallery owner. Now silver-haired and bearded, Granger remains as lean and debonair as he was as the star of Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" half a century ago. "The Next Big Thing" is, however, a bust.
MPAA rating: R, for language and some sexuality, nudity. Times guidelines: The sex scenes, while not graphic, are suggestive; also some strong language.
'The Next Big Thing'
Chris Eigeman...Gus Bishop
Jamie Harris...Deech Scumble
Connie Britton...Kate Crowley
Janet Zarish...Florence Rubin
A Castle Hill release of a TwoPoundBag production in association with Double A Films. Director PJ Posner. Producers Anthony Fierberg & Amy Hobby. Written by Joel Posner, PJ Posner. Cinematographer Olive Bokelberg. Editor David Zieff. Music Ferdinand Jay Smith, with Casey Filiaci & F. Jay Smith IV. Costumes Luca Mosca & Marco Cattoretti. Production designer Deana Sidney. Art director Benjamin Conable. Set decorator Elizabeth Meyerson. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
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