Elliot Kelman (JOE PANTOLIANO) is a failed publishing executive who can?t get back into business. He supports himself selling suits at the local mall and relies on hand-outs from his mother, ex-wife, and son. He also self-... more »publishes a weekly newsletter on the perils of self-delusion. Afraid his writings will be rejected, he hires a high school kid to post them on supermarket bulletin boards and stuff them under windshields in his New Jersey hometown. After he meets the sexy Carole (JENNIFER TILLY) and his newsletter begins to find an audience, things start looking up for Elliot. However, the return home of his oldest friend Richard (BOYD GAINES), a prominent movie producer, and the only one of his friends to have found success, brings Elliot?s feeling of inadequacy and squandered potential back to the surface. With Richard in town, the competitive tensions rise, and once Carole takes an interest in his friend, Elliot must confront his envy of Richard?s success and his disenchantment with his own failure. Second Best is a dark comedy that offers insight into men?s expectations of success, financially, sexually and otherwise, and provides a glimpse into what men actually talk about when women aren?t around. This is a film that explores how a generation of men who were expected to achieve their dreams can ultimately overcome the reality of falling short of them.« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 12/11/2017...
One of my favorite actors, Joe Pantoliano (Joey Pants), is in top form in this dark comedy! As part of a group of losers he and his buds mostly sit around talking about how they almost made it but each falls just short of success! Sounds slow but it is highly entertaining!
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Like Looking ina Mirror
Robert M. Penna | Albany, NY | 02/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My grandmother, God rest her soul, used to tell it like it was. If you were losing your hair, she pointed it out. If you were putting on weight, she told you so. My moustache made me look short, and she told me so every time she saw me. Having no tolerance for the little lies people tell themselves and their loved ones to make life more bearable, she had no patience for the insistence of friends and relatives to the effect that their commonplace sons, daughters, grandchildren and/or siblings were talented. "If they had talent," she used to maintain, "they'd be making money." Without money as testimony, anything else one might do, according to Grandma, was just a knack. A parlor trick...a dime a dozen.
Watching the 2003 movie "Second Best," I could not help but think that Grandma's spirit had visited and provided inspiration, if not editorial assistance, to writer-director Eric Weber. Weber is merciless in the honesty he brings to the portrayal of a bunch of reluctantly self-admitted losers in a Bergen County, New Jersey that could have stood in for almost any neighborhood in New York, Chicago, Boston or Phillie. Life does indeed have its ups and downs; and these guys, whatever their ups might have once been, are now on a fairly steady diet of downs with little or no relief in sight. Making up this crew are Peter Gerety as Marshall, slowly dying and, more importantly, loosing his dignity to prostate cancer; Matthew Arkin as Gerry, a real estate salesman who is lucky to sell two houses a year; Bronson Pinchot as Doc, whose MD will never carry him any farther than the emergency room in a small, local hospital; and Joe Pantoliano as Elliot, their erstwhile leader, and self-appointed bard whose stock in trade is an on-going chronicle of what it means, what it REALLY means, to be a loser. This chronicle takes the form of self-published "columns" that Elliot produces on his PC in his spare time, of which he has more than enough since his NYC publishing career long ago tanked and he has since been reduced to subsisting on hand outs from his son, his fabulously successful (and fabulously remarried) ex-wife, and his mother, she none the worse for the wear for being in a nursing home. Day after day, Elliot hits the keyboard and unburdens himself of the awful truth that life, and whatever it once might have had to offer, have passed him by. His genius, however, is the fact that he takes it upon himself in these columns to speak for EVERYman (and EVERYwoman, too) in the complaint that life just isn't fair. While his musings are anonymous, he is accessible at a website, www.Secondbest.com. The e-mail starts coming in, from the MIT graduate who is too geeky to get a date; from the aging wife with the flirtatious husband; from the older, award-winning salesman who, after four successful decades on the job, is put out to pasture by his new 27 year old female boss. Each identifies with Elliot's tirades against fate, and each has a story to tell and a desire for someone to just listen. So Elliot listens.
As the story unfolds, however, we learn that the abject failure of these meager lives is not enough to satisfy Fate's cruel lust for pain. Nope...to top it all off Elliot, Marshall, Gerry, and Doc have a wildly successful friend, Boyd Gaines as Richard, who escaped the old neighborhood to become one of Hollywood's most famous producers....and he is coming home for a visit. Needless to say, the reunion is a dance of awkward deceit, whereby Richard tries his level best not to openly recognize how provincial and unsuccessful his best friends are, while they in turn try not to be consumed by the jealousy that is eating them alive throughout his visit. Thus, even as Elliot tries pathetically to interest Richard in a screenplay he wrote, Richard continually dodges the necessity of telling Elliot what he really thinks of the work.
As is par for this sort of movie (and, if Hollywood is to be believed, also par for gatherings of old friends whose lives have taken dramatically different turns) confessions of past sins and current resentments threaten to derail the entire thing. Elliot's columns, heretofore finding grist in life's generic inequities or in his friends' particular failures at marriage, career and life, come to a head when he turns his own guns on himself, and reads aloud a True Confessions self-examination that lets more than one cat out of the bag.
As the film draws to a close, Richard, having finally dismissed Elliot's screenplay as "not right," announces that he has instead found a treasure trove in Elliot's columns. Envisioning them being turned into a successful movie, he offers Elliot a job and even agrees to fly him back and forth from coast to coast as need be so that he can continue to visit his aging mother and the dying Marshall. At this point, standard Hollywood issue screenwriting would have had Elliot finally find fame and fortune, and finally achieve the affirmation that has escaped him his entire life. But Weber wisely eschews this tidy wrap-up and instead has Elliot turn down the offer, apparently having found peace in the fact that the offer was at least made.
The message here, for all my fellow baby-boomers whose lives somehow did not turn out as we planned, those of us who find ourselves suddenly vastly older than we ever imagined being, who find our careers cruelly ended, our marriages crumbling and our prospects incredibly bleak, is that EVERY life, no matter what its circumstances, IS worth something, and all it takes to regain one's dignity is to simply stand up and declare that YOU ARE SOMEBODY.
My grandmother would have had little sympathy for the plight of either Elliot or his friends. But even she would have had to applaud the fact that not one of these "losers" was willing to go down without a fight. For any non-millionaire of about 50 or more, this is a movie to see.
Amazed I hadn't heard of it
K. Flood | Seattle, WA United States | 03/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed the movie. Here is this dysfunctional loser that reminds me a little of me, of my firends, there are very real feelings wrapped into this movie, he screws up, tests of friendship. I enjoyed the journey."
Great movie about the reality of a man's professional succes
ChancesR | Maine | 04/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This fabulous out take in time is shot through with ripe language and the visual images they leave behind. Men are men and we all know that but this film shows the visceral vulnerability that the latter stages of life, bring to the table, when careers go bad and health fails.
A perfect encapsulation of life and especially men and their attitudes towards themselves, their buddies - and what remains of their worlds. It is a keeper of a film and never got the notice it definitely deserves."
It might be lost on you.
kolleen bowers | Phila, PA | 12/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Second Best is a five star - just trust me. It is painfully, but touchingly poignant and in a rarely seen way. If you don't like any of the above adjectives then move along. If you do - just trust me, it's well worth your time."
Too Many Liberties With Unwarranted Vulgarity
D. Braun | GA, U.S.A. | 11/28/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I did something with this movie I've never done before - I threw it in the trash. Yes, really. Bad language can't carry a mediocre story and depressing characters.
Low, low reseller prices should tell you something (several available for 1 cent). They just wanna make a little on the shipping."