Dir: John Schlesinger. US. 2000. 108 mins.

Prod co: Lakeshore Entertainment. US dist: Paramount Pictures. Int'l sales: Lakeshore International. Exec prods: Gary Lucchesi, Ted Tannebaum, Lewis Manilow. Prods: Tom Rosenberg, Leslie Dixon, Linne Radmin. Scr: Thomas Ropelewski. DoP: Elliot Davis. Prod des: Howard Cummings. Ed: Peter Honess. Mus: Gabriel Yared. Main cast: Rupert Everett, Madonna, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Vartan, Lynn Redgrave, Josef Sommer, Neil Patrick Harris, Illeana Douglas.

You don't cringe at the things you expect to in John Schlesinger's new film, but there's certainly plenty to be perplexed by. Hard to swallow though it is that Rupert Everett - with his customary Etonian accent - plays a gay gardener living in Los Angeles, or that Madonna is a yoga instructor and his best friend, the movie would be palatable if the story made any sense. It doesn't, however, and audiences attracted by the cast will be bewildered by the events on show.

Domestic reviews were generally severe and the opening weekend gross of $6m doesn't bode well for a long run in theatres. International audiences might be more faithful to the stars initially, but once word is out, it will swiftly segue from the big screen to video and TV where it will be a strong performer.

Ironically much-bashed Madonna gives one of her most fluent performances yet as aforementioned yoga queen who has just been dumped by her latest boyfriend Michael Vartan. Everett consoles her, but when the two of them down a few too many martinis one night, they end up in bed. She gets pregnant and asks him to move in with her and be the father.

As if it weren't unlikely enough that they would sleep together in the first place, suspension of disbelief is required still further as hunky banker Bratt enters the picture and woos our heroine away from domestic bliss with her gay pal and their son.

Everett's performance here is uneven and generates little of the magnetism he displayed in An Ideal Husband or My Best Friend's Wedding. Madonna, in fact, is the key selling point, not least because of the new songs she has contributed to the soundtrack.