BEST F(R)IENDS [Movie Review]: Requiem for Wiseau.
This is exactly the sort of weird shit I live for.
After the infamy (and hilarity) of starring, producing, directing, writing, and promoting (and milking the hell out of) The Room, human question mark Tommy Wiseau has returned to movie theaters to grace us, his insatiable audience. Written by Greg Sestero (also of The Room “fame”), and ostensibly based on a 2003 road trip the two had taken together, Best F(r)iends is…a movie. That’s definitely one way to describe it.
Sesterio plays Jon Kortina, a blood-soaked drifter who stumbles upon Wiseau’s mortician Harvey Lewis. Taking pity on him, Harvey takes in Jon, offering him a job helping him keep his mortuary clean, and preparing cadavers. Harvey’s…definitely a character, and I’d be curious to figure out how many of the mannerisms Wiseau added spur-of-the-moment. Harvey is a lonely character, taking care of the cadavers in his care, molding masks of their faces, and even singing to them. There’s an odd childishness to Harvey that is hard to separate from Wiseau himself, but we’ll get back to that later.
Sestero fares a bit better as Jon; he’s not a bad actor, and having written the part for himself helps ensure he gets his due in regards to having something with which to work. He says little for the first ten or so minutes of the movie, instead playing Jon as weary, broken, and morose. By the time he’s figured out a decent (and morbid) con with which to make some extra money (selling gold teeth and fillings carved out of their cadavers), Sestero’s carried enough of the film on his broken visage alone. The con itself is one that is morbid and interesting enough to play out well, and luckily director Justin MacGregor knows how to pace this sequence well.
The direction is slick, too. Anyone walking in hoping for The Room 2 is going to be disappointed. Although there are plenty of callbacks to the more bizarre moments in The Room (a basketball tossing game; Wiseau belting out a variation of “You’re tearing me apart!”), there’s plenty original weird going on here to ensure this film is memorable (just the introduction of the clown corpse into Wiseau’s mortuary is WTF-inducing enough to be long remembered). But make no mistake: this is a professional film, written by someone who knows how to write, and who knows how people function; and directed by someone who has at least seen a movie before in his life. There’s enough touches going on (especially in the later half) that distinguishes this film from any other number of low-budget indie dramedies out there. A late-night road trip sequence involving Wiseau and Sestero is gonzo enough to have been mistaken as early David Lynch (or, hell, anything out of Mulholland Drive) or even the drug-induced montages in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hell, tonally, Best F(r)iends reminds me of a darker Terry Gilliam, and once the film is confident enough to unleash its weirdness, it’s glorious. Seriously, I could watch the last 10-15 minutes of this on loop and probably never get bored of it (and just wait until the pre-end-credits montage. Holy crap!)
THAT BEING SAID…
Each actor does a great job playing against each other. Sestero isn’t a bad actor, and has some genuine presence, truth be told (although the sight of him kissing hundred-dollar-bills solicited some guffaws in my nearly-full theater). Vince Jolivette, as the shady Andrei, makes a memorable impact, walking into Harvey’s work, two women in tow, and menace in the air and making demands…until the second he interacts with Wiseau. Anytime Wiseau talks to or interacts with anyone other than Sestero, any tonal continuity goes out the window. This isn’t intentional…but it was obvious that anyone other than Sistero was at a loss to figure out how to play against a presence as bizarre as Wiseau; any sense of threat, menace, or tone is inverted and abandoned entirely, and in at least one shot it was obvious how exasperated Jovilette was trying to work against Wiseau and keep his compsure. And yet, despite that…Wiseau oddly makes the character work. Harvey garners actual sympathy, especially once his relationship with Jon is strained; there’s something so oddly childlike and naive with Harvey (and, by extension, Wiseau himself), and an investment in his character. It’s clear Wiseau is doing whatever the hell pops into his mind…and yet even with how fucking strange his performance is, there’s an odd familiarity to it. Unlike his performance in The Room, where he was playing someone who we, the audience, was told is an actual human being (despite not acting like one at all) and we had no idea what to expect from him, here Wiseau is fucking strange to begin with. We already expect something bizarre from Wiseau…and he delivers in spades.
If you’re near a theater playing this, I recommend tracking it down. It looks great on a big screen, and if you’re with the right audience it can be a hoot. But know that this isn’t the same type of movie like The Room; if you’re expecting a dumpster fire movie, this is not exactly that. This is weird, and worth watching, don’t get me wrong, but here I am, three days later, still trying to parse what this film is trying to be (I’d initially compared it to a student film, all loud and trying to impress, upon walking out. I do not mean that as an insult…but I stand by it still).
This is a weird, weird fever dream of a movie. I just wouldn’t call it “bad”. Oh! Except the part where we can clearly see Wiseau fiddle with his wireless mic. Yeah…that part was objectively bad. Can’t wait until Volume 2!
4/5 ATMs in a Storage Unit.
Best F(r)iends (Vol. 1) is currently playing in select theaters.