This watchable woman's film is a revisionist take on melodramas like OLD ACQUAINTANCE (1943) in which feuding characters endure middle age and each others' company. Unlike such sudsy updates of 40's soap operas as BETWEEN FRIENDS (1983), MY VERY BEST FRIEND takes a different tack: What if
one of the squabbling pals really means every bit of her bitchy repartee?
Always supportive of her glamorous friend Dana Griffin (Jaclyn Smith), reserved Barbara Wilkins (Jill Eikenberry) is somewhat relieved when Dana becomes engaged to tycoon Ted Marshall (Tom Mason). Invited to the wedding along with her increasingly distant husband Alex (Tom Irwin) and her teen
daughter Kate (Kimberly Warnat), Barbara is stunned when Ted blurts out that Dana is pregnant: she knows that a college abortion left Dana sterile, but keeps quiet.
When Ted discovers that Dana deceived him and threatens to annul the marriage, she deliberately pushes him off his yacht and watches him drown. To allay suspicions of murder, penniless Dana waives her rights to Ted's fortune and is forced to depend on Barbara's kindness. Barbara's housekeeper Rose
(Beverley Elliott) isn't keen on Dana joining the Wilkins household.
Worming her way into Kate's confidence, Dana makes subtle plays for Alex's affections and even bugs the Wilkins' home in order to uncover information she can use to break up Barbara's marriage. Resentful of Alex's emotional bonding with Dana, Barbara shreds his skydiving gear; Rose forgets to have
it repaired. On Alex's birthday, Dana diverts Barbara with a fake phone call about Kate becoming ill during an out-of-town school outing. When Barbara returns the next morning, she catches Alex and Dana in bed. Alex then rushes out for a skydiving trip with the torn gear; his accidental death
casts suspicion on jealous Barbara. Unable to persuade police that Barbara acted intentionally, Dana is finally arrested for Ted's murder. Rose uncovers Dana's recording equipment which taped her confession to Alex that she had killed her own husband and wouldn't hesitate to add Alex to her
casualty list; she plays this tape for the police.
This chilling evocation of misplaced trust is an above average soap thriller, expertly directed by Joyce Chopra, who helmed the women's film classic SMOOTH TALK (1985). If this film has a flaw, it's the extremity of Barbara's unwarranted faith in Dana. Still, Dana is a practiced chameleon, and
Barbara seems more gullible than unbelievably loyal. The teleplay intelligently pictures the Wilkins marriage as shaky, a battleground vulnerable to Dana's final scourge. Echoing Gene Tierney's vacant-souled heroine in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945), Jaclyn Smith gives a fine performance by
incorporating her delicate beauty into her portrayal of a gamesplayer who manipulates people like chess pieces. She craves the security of Barbara's marriage, but lacks the self-awareness to realize that such relationships are earned, not acquired. Dana kills to fill a void in herself; the tragedy
is that she betrays the one person who ever recognized any humanity in her. In examining this cancerous coveting, the film suggests that all our friends should come complete with a psychological profile attached. (Violence, adult situations.)
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