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My Very Best Friend

Jaclyn Smith brings glamour and deceit, and Jill Eikenberry brings goodness and virtue, to "My Very Best Friend," which skims along on the lightest of premises. Bigscreen helmer Joyce Chopra ("Smooth Talk"), however, directs with a sure hand, eliciting multilayered perfs from her leads and delivering a wholly enjoyable tale of a ruthless woman who visits tragedy on her best friend's family.

With:
Cast: Jaclyn Smith, Jill Eikenberry, Tom Irwin, Tom Mason, Mary Kay Place, Kimberly Warnat, Beverley Elliot, Garwin Sanford.

Jaclyn Smith brings glamour and deceit, and Jill Eikenberry brings goodness and virtue, to “My Very Best Friend,” which skims along on the lightest of premises. Bigscreen helmer Joyce Chopra (“Smooth Talk”), however, directs with a sure hand, eliciting multilayered perfs from her leads and delivering a wholly enjoyable tale of a ruthless woman who visits tragedy on her best friend’s family.

Dana Griffin (Smith) is a former famous fashion model who’s about to marry super-wealthy businessman Ted (Tom Mason). Dana’s best friend, Barbara Wilkins (Eikenberry), her husband, Alex (Tom Irwin), and daughter fly to San Francisco for the nuptials, where Barbara and Alex are dazzled by the still-stunning Dana and Tom’s overwhelming wealth.

After the wedding, disaster strikes: Ted falls off the yacht and drowns, and a grieving Dana flies to New Hampshire to stay with Barbara for a while. Alex doesn’t think it’s such a good idea, since he and Barbara are going through marital problems, and their 13-year-old daughter Kate (Kimberly Warnat) is experiencing 13-year-old girl problems.

Sure enough, Dana’s arrival opens up rivalries old and new as she wedges her affections into Alex’s heart as well as Kate’s.

Others see through Dana’s veneer, but Barbara stands by her friend. As events escalate, plot unravels when Barbara inadvertently causes someone’s death, which opens her eyes to her friend’s manipulative ways.

Melodrama to be sure, but Lindsay Harrison’s script is judicious in laying out the entangled layers of relationships and character histories, building and keeping interest. Fact that Harrison’s script is based on a screenplay suggests that this was once developed as a feature film.

Alex and Barbara’s relationship problems ring true, but Barbara’s involvement in the fatal climax doesn’t make moral sense; it suggests the writers were hurried and resolved the telepic in the quickest way possible.

Chopra directs with subtlety, and never lets Smith go over the top even when her character does. Eikenberry brings depth to a role that borders on revolting goodness, a la Melanie Wilkes in “Gone With the Wind.”

Excellent use is made of locations, including fabulous houses and a gorgeous yacht. Vancouver is a nice stand-in for New Hampshire.

Costumes, makeup and cinematography are tops.

My Very Best Friend

(Wed. (27), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production: Filmed in San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada, by the Fred Silverman Co. in association with Viacom Prods. Executive producer, Fred Silverman; co-executive producer, David Dizenfeld; producers, Laurette Hayden, Richard Davis, Sandy Brice; director, Joyce Chopra; writer, Lindsay Harrison, based on a screenplay by John Robert Bensink and Robert Glass.

Crew: Camera, James Glennon; editor, Paul Dixon; production design, Perri Gorrara; sound, William Butler; music, Patrick Williams; casting, Carol Kelsay.

Cast: Cast: Jaclyn Smith, Jill Eikenberry, Tom Irwin, Tom Mason, Mary Kay Place, Kimberly Warnat, Beverley Elliot, Garwin Sanford.

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