Film Review – Best F(r)iends: Volume One (2018)
The general consensus of viewers that have seen Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic, The Room, may typically mark it as an artistic career death. But after its exponential climb in pop culture over the past 15 years, star of The Room and writer of the critically acclaimed, The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero, has somewhat found a rekindling of his relative stardom. Written by and starring Sestero, Best F(r)iends: Volume One is his latest two-part project that not only reunites him with his loyal partner, Wiseau, but grants him a platform for his own unabridged creative expression.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Justin MacGregor
Written By: Greg Sestero
Starring: Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau, Paul Sheer, and Kristen StephensonPino
Jon Kortina (Sestero) is a homeless drifter with a past filled with failure that perpetually haunts him. While wandering the streets of LA, attempting to scrounge up any means of sustainable living, he meets a peculiar mortician (Wiseau) that has been aloofly stalking his every move.
Confronting this mysterious silhouetted figure, they become unlikely companions. Subsequently proffered an assistant position in this misfit’s experimental morgue, Jon begins to work for him. But all is not what it seems and morality becomes a character of itself as greed, betrayal and crime inevitably take center stage.
Greg Sestero took inspiration from a road trip he took with Wiseau in 2003 along the California strip, in which Tommy believed that Greg was plotting to murder him. Upon the glory of The Disaster Artist, Sestero penned the screenplay for this project after he became more empathetic towards Wiseau.
The hint is in the name as this is the first of a two-part narrative. Justin MacGregor takes responsibility as quite the stylish director in this unorthodox endeavour. As an independent working, the film played at various film festivals in September of 2017, garnering noteworthy attention. Being screened at Prince Charles Cinema in The West End, London, by March 30th, the film was gifted its largest release in most indie domains. Confirmed for multi-screening proximity between June and September, 2018, Best F(r)iends: Volume Two‘s will soon be upon us.
Slick And Stylish
MacGregor uses an array of interesting shooting techniques with the use of drones. It gives the sense of scope in the environment of the film and that enforces the realism of its milieu. Similarly to Sean Baker’s Tangerine, there is a somewhat on-the-fly feel to its inexpensive production. It’s a devilishly visual movie.
A weakness here would be the inability to create that same quality with certain intimate scenes consisting of dialogue. One scene in particular that involves Jon drinking whiskey in a bar, he is chatting up the bartender and the cheapness of the whole composition is unfortunately unconvincing.
A couple of scenes suffer with this as the realism can be magnificent in aerial parts, but smaller scenes more ponderous. The dichotomy between Sestero and Wiseau is the true strength of this film but, perhaps apart from one female character, the supporting cast is externally uninteresting, possessing little agency while also being quite one-dimensional.
Tommy Wiseau Steals The Show
A pivotal part of the film’s appeal is quite undeniably nested inside the remnants of the cult phenomenon, The Room. And a glaring aspect to the whole film is obviously the eccentrically lovable Tommy Wiseau. Sure, his acting proficiency is jarring, but MacGregor is somehow able to blend his quirks into a suited quality while stood opposite Sestero’s straighter, but sympathetic, protagonist.
He fits into the absurdity of the film and audiences laugh out loud at scenes in his inexcusable presence. But this time around it doesn’t feel as if the giggles are coming from an accidental place — at least, not always. Tommy seems more aware of his own idiosyncratic advantages and embraces them with affecting the viewer. Many of his poignant moments stem from his loud and predictably unpredictable essence.
Wails of laughter ensued when Wiseau’s character clumsily catches a basketball in slow motion. But this is not The Room; the comedic side of the film may not be in the same realm of their iconic classic. Audiences may not be fully on board with this more channeled version of Wiseau but he uniquely paints a lot of color in this picture.
Its Ominous Score, Dark Atmosphere and Sestero’s Troubled Character
From the get-go, the score is impressive. A genuine feeling of unease is prevalent and MacGregor isn’t shy in letting you bask in its deceivingly quaint ambience. It helps in making the story multi-faceted as it isn’t a purely laughable sitting. There’s a sense of peripheral danger for sure.
Greg Sestero even displays some surprising emotional profundity in scenes where his character is depressingly welling up, fighting back tears. Of course, it’s a far cry from the bizarre mediocrity of The Room. Many will argue that it isn’t a high bar set in the first place. But Sestero performs with subtly competent stoicism while playing this mostly stiff, damaged, Mad-Max-type loner.
Tonally Polarizing Thriller/Comedy
It may be troublesome in rating the film from a completely untainted critical point of view. Due to the proclivity of gravitating towards the biased adoration for The Room and its intertwined bromance, it’s difficult to pin down. Accentuated callbacks to The Room can be found in abundance. One that is clearly recognizable is a scene in which they are passing a basketball — mid dialogue — back and forth. “I have something for you,” and even “Oh hi, Jon,” are lines extracted from their classic.
But the mediation between darkness and lightness is the shtick of this film. Moments become so surreal in parts that it either inflicts dumbfounded confusion or cackling mirth. Its narrative has a real ark, meandering from exultant glee to problematic segments between the two main characters. The narrative of Best F(r)iends is interchangeably alike with The Disaster Artist in an even quirkier fashion. A comparison to Breaking Bad also wouldn’t be indisputable.
Audiences can be categorized while embarking on this journey. Film fans will find amusement and interest here, and die-hard fanboys of The Room will be right at home and casual viewers will be totally mummified by its weirdness. For its underdog backdrop, it is positively a conspicuous and enjoyable project.
Unlike The Room, Best F(r)iends is far more akin to a legitimate independent contender and valiant effort, as opposed to a catastrophically hysterical disasterpiece. And that is nothing to be embarrassed about. Its ending is quite a detrimental cliffhanger that finely rolls out the carpet for its sequel.
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