AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Best in Show
Director: Christopher Guest (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Sep 2000
Duration (in mins):  90
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Cast: Jay Brazeau  (Dr. Chuck Nelken)
  Parker Posey  (Meg Swan)
  Michael Hitchcock  (Hamilton Swan)

Summary: Five days before the famed Mayflower Dog Show is to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, trendy dog owners Meg and Hamilton Swan take their neurotic Weimaraner Beatrice to psychiatrist Chuck Nelken to be treated for a state of depression triggered by Beatrice's witnessing her owners having sex. In Fern City, Florida, Cookie Fleck, a former waitress, and her good-natured yet oafish salesman husband Gerry serenade their beloved Norwich Terrier Winky while making plans to attend the dog show. At his fishing equipment shop in Pine Nut, North Carolina, Harlan Pepper readies his Bloodhound Hubert for the competition by holding a conversation with the dog in which Harlan voices Hubert’s thoughts through the use of ventriloquism. In New York City, Stefan Vanderhoof, the middle-aged proprietor of a hair salon, combs out his prized Shih Tzus, Miss Agnes and Tyrone, while recalling how he fell in love with his flamboyant young boyfriend, Scott Donlan, after watching Scott sashaying in the show ring where he proved to be “light on his feet.” At the Cabot mansion in Philadelphia, Sherri Ann Cabot, the nubile, collagen-lipped young wife of senile millionaire Leslie Ward Cabot gushes about the love of soup she shares with her elderly husband. Afterward, Sherri talks with dog handler Christy Cummings, who has trained the Cabot’s Standard Poodle Rhapsody in White, who is nicknamed “Butch.” The masculine-looking Christy explains that she provides Butch with discipline while Sherri offers unconditional love. Soon after, Meg and Hamilton fly with the high strung Beatrice to Philadelphia while Harlan loads Hubert into his recreational vehicle and Cookie, Winky and Gerry drive off in their van. Along the way, Cookie insists on stopping to visit Max Berman, an old acquaintance from her restaurant days. Much to Gerry’s chagrin, Max passionately embraces Cookie, then over dinner, recounts the sexual acrobatics he performed with her. Interspersed with reminiscences of his sexual conquests, Max provides a grisly description of his job as a hostage negotiator. When Max’s son Zach takes Winky hostage and climbs onto the garage roof with the dog, Max demonstrates his skill as a negotiator by threatening to disembowel the boy. Later as the contestants start to arrive at the Taft Hotel in Philadelphia, Scott takes it as an insult when hotel manager Mark Schaefer states that he has Scott and Stefan “down as a queen.” When Cookie and Max arrive at the hotel, they discover that their credit card has been rejected due to an unpaid bill, but Mark takes pity on them and offers them lodging in a utility closet. As they prepare for a welcoming party in the hotel lobby, Meg and Hamilton, who share a love of clothing catalogs, debate which monochromatic colors to wear that night. At the party, Cookie meets another dalliance from her waitress days while Harlan bores Meg and Hamilton with his description of fly fishing. When Scott introduces himself as “Mary” and shows off his flashy, embroidered pants, the gullible Gerry addresses him as Mary. Meanwhile, at the Cabot mansion party, an ice sculpture of Butch slowly melts as Sherri models her diamond tiara and the silent Leslie is rolled into the room in his wheelchair. Before going to bed that night, Scott and Stefan redecorate their hotel room and then phone Tyrone, who has remained at home, to sing him a lullaby. On the day of the show, Hamilton gives Beatrice a pep talk and then becomes hysterical when he realizes that the dog’s favorite toy, a rubber bee, has been left behind at the hotel. As the show begins, announcer Buck Laughlin provides a running commentary of lewd jokes and offensive remarks, much to the consternation of dog authority Trevor Beckwith. As Hubert wins the hound category, making him eligible to compete for “Best in Show,” Meg rushes back to the hotel to retrieve Beatrice’s bee. After failing to find it, she hurries to a toy store to find a replacement. Meanwhile, Scott prances around the ring with Agnes and is awarded first place in the toy dog category. Scott then hurries back to the hotel to change his clothes for the Best In Show competition. The terriers are next to compete, and Cookie and Gerry cheer Winky on with advice about maintaining a “happy attitude.” After Winky wins her class, Meg returns and tells Hamilton that she has failed to find a replacement bee, prompting him to scream at her and storm off. Later, when Hamilton marches Beatrice into the show ring, the dog attacks the judge and is dismissed in disgrace. After Butch wins her contest, Christy runs into the hallway and passionately kisses Sherri on the lips. Watching the proceedings on their hotel room television, Scott comments that Christy is “one happy fella.” While ushering Winky to the Best in Show competition, Cookie trips and injures her knee. It then falls to the inexperienced Gerry, who (literally) has two left feet, to act as Winky’s handler. When Winky is awarded Best in Show, Gerry is incredulous and Christy sulks. Six months later, Gerry and Cookie, now back home in Fern City, describe their victorious homecoming and their burgeoning career recording their terrier songs under the name of “The Captain and Cookie.” Christy and Sherri, meanwhile, have launched the publication of American Butch , a dog magazine geared to lesbian purebred owners. In Pine Nut, Harlan explains that after spending time reflecting at an Israeli kibbutz, he realized his fate was to become a master ventriloquist. Scott and Stefan have published a calendar picturing their dogs dressed as great lovers in the cinema, while Meg and Hamilton, who are back in therapy, tell Dr. Nelken that their marital problems were all caused by Beatrice, whom they have since replaced by a pug who enjoys watching them have sex.  

Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment
Director: Christopher Guest (Dir)
  Jack Hardy (1st asst dir)
  J. Stephen Buck (1st asst dir, Los Angeles crew)
  Mindy Heslin (2d asst dir)
  John MacCarthy (Addl 2d asst dir)
  Carie Wallis (3d asst dir)
  Brent Crowell (Addl 3d asst dir)
  Aldric Porter (1st asst dir, Los Angeles crew)
  Walter Parry Jr. (2d asst dir, Los Angeles crew)
  David Hyman (2d asst dir, Los Angeles crew)
  Phil Robinson (2d 2d asst dir, Los Angeles crew)
Producer: Karen Murphy (Prod)
  Gordon Mark (Exec prod)
Writer: Christopher Guest (Wrt )
  Eugene Levy (Wrt )

Subject Major: Dog shows
  Gold diggers
  Romance--Age difference
  Snobs and snobbishness
Subject Minor: Aged men
  Hotel managers
  Philadelphia (PA)
  Pride and vanity
  Ventriloquists and ventriloquism

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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