Review: Best F(r)iends: Volume One (2018)
Forging a unique yet unmistakably terrible path for itself, Best F(r)iends: Volume One is deeply ambitious, deeply flawed, and deeply, deeply confusing. It’s somewhat of a spiritual successor to Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero’s previous disasterpiece The Room, and the plot has distinct similarities to the events surrounding their friendship chronicled in Setsero’s book The Disaster Artist, except this time with Sestero at the creative helm and Wiseau only in front of the camera. Wiseau is firing on all cylinders in a role that plays to all his strengths, making him undeniably comedic but also able to effectively communicate emotions and relevant plot details in a scene, something which he’s proven in the past to have difficulties with. Unlike The Room, the comedy doesn’t arise from any astoundingly inept technical aspects, but more from the film doing a poor job of throwing it’s hat into the art house arena. A majority of it is overwhelmingly obvious, and not in a self-parody sense, but instead with an amateurish breath and a tone deaf focus that makes the film feel like a bad attempt at a good movie, rather than a good attempt at a bad movie. Surprisingly, it works.
The film looks like it might have been constructed from the B-Roll footage left over from Nightcrawler, with some fantastic shot composition and a mobile camera that does a fair bit of vertical movement. The colours are dull but crisp in a realistically gritty looking way, and though there’s nothing wholly unique from a stylistic standpoint, there’s nothing that looks particularly poor either. There are enough interestingly composed shots to keep you watching the focal points, and if there were any framed photos of spoons in the film I didn’t catch them. On a technical level it’s a well made film, and this extends to the writing as well. The dialogues can be a touch choppy but the way the character dynamics are set up it works as an unfriendly curtness that makes sense with the way the story progresses. Nothing explicitly absurd happens, but the way the plot is constructed stretches credulity and results in a lot of unintentional hilarity. Plot points and characters are thrown into the film in a manner that muffles the impact they have, and while the main beats are well placed and concisely explained the character motivations do become increasingly odd as the film progresses, especially during the rather compressed third act.
The acting and the visual elements are were ninety percent of the humour comes from. There are a few meta-references, and yes, there is an “Oh Hai” for good measure, but part of what made Best F(r)iends so enjoyable was that it fails on a different level than The Room did. Tommy Wiseau being hilariously bad is expected, but the rest of the cast don’t do themselves any favours either. Sestero verges on something that could be construed as good, but he’s just so flat and un-expressive that when juxtaposed with Wiseau’s insanity the way they react to each other is so off-key it’s farcical. The supporting cast are all clearly working actors who are doing their best, but when compared to the leads their attempts to act natural results in everything feel that much more absurd, and makes the tone of the film nothing short of schizophrenic. This muddled intention of the film carries over to the visual ideas, which are bland and obvious and again , when compared with the rest of the film just feel so awkwardly placed that there’s simply nothing to do but laugh. From a qualitative standpoint, Best F(r)iends: Volume One is cliched and convoluted, with just the wrong combination of by-the-numbers crime drama and poorly executed surrealism, but from a pure enjoyment perspective, whilst it certainly doesn’t have the staying power of other good/bad films, it’s absolutely ridiculous and undeniably hilarious.