The Next Big Thing (2001)
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One day while Gus is out, a thief named Deech breaks into his apartment and steals his valuables, including one of his paintings, which Deech gives to his own landlord in lieu of back rent. To make it seem valuable to his landlord, he concocts an elaborate story of a traumatized Vietnam vet named Geoffrey Buonardi, an injured, alcoholic recluse who paints to relieve his suffering. The landlord accepts it as payment, then turns around, repeats the story, embellishing it further, and sells the stolen painting for $10,000 to a gallery-owner friend.
Learning of this, Deech sees an opportunity to make some real money, but is horrified to discover upon returning to the apartment to steal more paintings that the canvases have all been slashed. After his girlfriend left him, Gus destroyed them in despair. While still at the apartment, Gus returns home and encounters Deech, who he berates until he discovers that Deech has returned for more paintings.
Flattered and grateful that his paintings are appreciated, he agrees to allow Deech to represent his work under the fictitious identity and split the proceeds. He paints new paintings and suddenly, the work that interested no one becomes the most applauded and sought-after in the art world, and the mysterious Geoffrey Buonardi, whose biography continues to be embellished with each telling, becomes fascinating to critics, collectors, and galleries. But the problem is that to keep it all going, Gus must remain in the background while Deech lives the high life.
Although deeply gratified that his ambitions of a painting career are being realized and his talent acknowledged, Gus is the odd man out and the fictitious Geoffrey Buonardi becomes a rival and an albatross to him.
Meanwhile, the bored wife of a wealthy man, who "patronizes" up-and-coming talent becomes obsessed with Geoffrey Buonardi; a prominent but jaded critic who truly appreciates the work interviews and falls hard for the authentic talent she seldom encounters in the art world; a private detective hired by the wealthy patron to track down the artist figures out the fraud and wants in on the action; and the faithless girlfriend realizes that the celebrated painter is the boyfriend she dumped and blackmails him, taking over his representation and demanding Gus marry her.
Watch the movie to see how it all plays out. There are some truly hilarious moments and very funny dialog. I really like this movie.
Note - Farley Granger, 50's heart-throb, makes a rare appearance in this film.
One of Deech's victims is artist Gus Bishop, who is late for an appointment at the Pomposello Gallery. Gus has a job involving thousands of colorful files kept on numerous shelves, but that's not what he wants to spend his life doing. Still, Arthur Pomposello is not impressed with Gus' art. This is what Gus has been told many times.
Deech sees Gus' address in his wallet and robs Gus yet again. Later, Deech is about to get thrown out of his apartment. Not that it's much better than being on the street. But at least it's something. Deech shows the landlord one of Gus' paintings (signed "GB") and makes up a fabulous story about the artist Geoff Buonardi (taking care to hide the Chef Buonardi canned pasta he is eating; it looks suspiciously like Chef Boy-Ar-Dee in the real world). The landlord is impressed and takes the painting in place of cash.
The fantastic story about the troubled Vietnam vet takes on a life of its own, becoming more amazing each time it is told. Everyone wants to know more about this mysterious artist. Kate Crowley wants to interview him for her magazine. Florence Rubin absolutely must have all his work (and she has the money to do it). Furthermore, she hires private detective Walter Sznitzken to track down Buonardi. Which he does--sort of.
Gus is such a loser that girlfriend Shari wants him gone. Having been robbed, he lies on her couch all day long, and she's had enough. Fortunately, Gus finds himself part of an amazing scheme cooked up by Walter and Deech. One problem: this same scenario found its way into an episode of "M*A*S*H". Everyone thought they knew the amazing Dr. Tuttle, but no one had ever actually seen him. The entire New York City artistic community believes Buonardi exists. How do our heroes handle it?
Well, there are several creative solutions to the problem. Most depending on people being able to keep secrets. That's all I intend to say.
This is a pretty good movie, and at least some of the acting is good. The writing is clever enough. The one standout performance comes from Connie Britton as the magazine writer.
I never did like Gus or Deech. Perhaps it would have made a difference if they had been played by actors I knew. But I did want the scheme to work.
This is good enough. Nothing outstanding.