At the exclusive Colby University a young woman lies in a coma from a drug overdose. As local sheriff Artie Bonner (Taye Diggs) investigates what happened he starts to unravel the lives of four young college coeds. Jumping back in time we meet Alicia (Mia Kirshner) who is attending Colby on financial aid and scholarships and is determined to get into law school at any cost. Hadley (Meredith Monroe) Julianne (Rachel True) and Sydney (Dominique Swain) are three of Colby's most popular girls--beautiful rich and all damaged in some way. When Alicia and Hadley are paired up for a sociology class senior thesis Hadley at first brushes away the plain Jane. But Alicia becomes persistent perhaps seeing a window of opportunity to get into law school and manages to get Hadley to accept her into the clique. The three girls introduce Alicia to a world of privilege boys--and of course drugs--and Alicia takes to this new life a little too vigorously. Soon they regret letting this supposedly meek girl into their lives especially Hadley. Somehow the trio has to stop this monster they have created.
You can't say the cast isn't at least esthetically pleasing to look at--but pretty people don't necessarily make a good film. It's a shame really because some of the actors actually have potential but have managed to suppress their good sense for this. Canadian Kirshner has made some excellent films in her native country including Atom Egoyan's 1994 Exotica but she hasn't made that jump in the United States choosing instead films such as Not Another Teen Movie. She does a fairly nice job in Friend but it's hard to shine in a bad film. She deserves better (and a new agent). True and Swain (who made an extremely convincing Lolita in Adrian Lyne's recent version of the Nabokov book) also do an adequate job with thankless parts. It's Monroe's performance that weighs the film down. The TV actress (Dawson's Creek) can't quite raise up to the level of a feature film and has very little range of emotions--and unfortunately the film centers on her. Not the best choice.
The fact that New Best Friend sat on the shelf for a few years gives you a pretty good indication of how the next few hours are going to go. It is simply a film that takes itself much too seriously. This scenario--a super-elite clique that makes over a sweet girl and eventually turns her into an uncontrollable monster who has to be stopped--has been done and done again. Yet in films like Heathers and Jawbreaker it's done with biting commentary a tongue-in-cheek look at how peers can sway behavior. In Friend we end up watching a very bad episode of Beverly Hills 90210. The lifestyle of the rich and famous in a small college town just isn't all that interesting. Relatively new director Zoe Clarke-Williams obviously needs a few more features under her belt before she can be considered as a serious director. Williams has the action moving back and forth through time so often that it's hard to follow the timeline of events. The film could have done so much more--but it just didn't.