Second Best

Former advertising executive Eric Weber's up-close look at the corrosive effects of failure features a fine cast playing a godforsaken gaggle of sour, self-pitying schlubs. Once an up-and-coming editor in a New York City publishing house, Elliot Kelman (Joe Pantoliano) wound up crawling back, tail between his legs, to the small New Jersey town where he was...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Former advertising executive Eric Weber's up-close look at the corrosive effects of failure features a fine cast playing a godforsaken gaggle of sour, self-pitying schlubs. Once an up-and-coming editor in a New York City publishing house, Elliot Kelman (Joe Pantoliano) wound up crawling back, tail between his legs, to the small New Jersey town where he was born. He lives on alimony from his ex-wife, successful therapist Paula (Polly Draper), who's remarried to a prosperous new husband, and cash from a humiliating job selling suits at the local mall. His love life is limited to sordid trysts with married crossing-guard Carole-with-an-e (Jennifer Tilly), and he vents his misanthropic frustration in a weekly rant called "The Loser," which he hires local kids to post around town. Elliot holds court with his equally pathetic friends — "Doc" Klingenstein (Bronson Pinchot), who works in the local emergency room, ineffectual realtor Gerald (Matthew Arkin) and George (Peter Gerety), who's losing a long and painful battle with prostate cancer — at a succession of down-market local joints. The crab who clawed his way out of this bucket of hopelessness is Elliot's best childhood pal, Richard Sherman (Boyd Gaines); Richard became a hotshot Hollywood producer and married Elliot's stunning college girlfriend Allison (Paulina Porizkova). Richard's business trip to New York is the catalyst for Elliot's long dark weekend of despair: Elliot persuades Richard to spend the weekend at his house, and everything they do points out the disparity between their lives. A leisurely round of golf at Richard's swank country club contrasts vividly with the rough-and-ready games Elliot and company play on the public green; the starstruck stares Richard draws because he's been on TV remind Elliot that he's cloaked in the loser's mantle of invisibility. Harvey Pekar spun the discontents of working stiffs who know they're stuck on the scrap heap of life and things aren't going to get any better into the enthralling American Splendor comics. But Weber's curdled celebration of honor in mediocrity, shot on muddy, amateurish digital video, lacks Pekar's bracing insight into the rich inner workings of superficially mundane lives. Weber's losers really are losers — envious, spiteful, complacent, mean-spirited and ultimately boring malcontents pickled in their own poison, and they drag his film down with them.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Former advertising executive Eric Weber's up-close look at the corrosive effects of failure features a fine cast playing a godforsaken gaggle of sour, self-pitying schlubs. Once an up-and-coming editor in a New York City publishing house, Elliot Kelman (Jo… (more)

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