Dead bodies and gold teeth bring the disaster artists back together.
Tommy Wiseau has had a very strange year. His big-budget, egotistic 2003 super-blunder, The Room, has rapidly become (an even bigger) cult phenomenon, featuring in screenings across the world, and seeing its first ever widespread theatrical release. This could be due to 2017’s The Disaster Artist, which was inspired by the film’s chaotic production. It’s impossible to ignore its legacy when chatting about Best F(r)iends, which sees the reunion of Wiseau and his Room co-star Greg Sestero. But the first volume of this convoluted saga (inspired by hard-to-believe true events) deserves to be judged on its own merits, and many, many flaws.
Jon (Sestero) is a drifter, stumbling around Los Angeles, clambering for money to make it through the day. Harvey (Wiseau), a mortician with an affinity for masks, sees Jon on the streets, and offers him a job. The pair soon become friends, but there’s deceit and betrayal to be had.
Wiseau’s days of being a pauper of all trades are over, as his role here is purely as an actor. Directed by Justin MacGregor and written by Greg Sestero, its a darkly comic caper at its core. Stylish style is injected into the flick by MacGregor’s keen eye, with shots of a nighttime fairground adding a low-key beauty to the melodrama. An incessant reliance on shoddy slo-mo shots add to the film’s music video sensibility, never feeling grounded in the real world – although considering the cast’s performances, that makes a lot of sense.
Imagine Wolf of Wall Street, but swap stocks for metal teeth and take a healthy dose of acid; you have Best F(r)iends. However the interesting narrative is lost amongst nonsensical scenes which are too often dragged out to a yawn-inducing effect, and also under the suffocating pressure of tone-deaf dialogue, with interactions between the two stars providing nothing funny enough to mock, or (which was unlikely anyway) anything to engross the viewer further – its all very, very dull. Particularly so of Sestero, who despite being the writer behind this uninspiring screenplay, has not afforded himself a character which allows him to showcase his acting chops.
On characteristically freakish form is Wiseau, who continues to make us wonder if he is actually human (I believe he’s eastern Europe’s adult equivalent of E.T.). Thankfully there isn’t as much flexing of his abnormally wrinkly yet distinctive muscles here, nor are there any excruciatingly long sex scenes. What you will find are continuously amusing, Tommy-gold scenes (look out for the Chinese man), that milk the star’s quirky appeal. If you want to see notorious enigma transform not one, not two, but many sentences into opera-esque renditions, this is the film for you.
There’s a level of ambition to be found here, unlike the down-to-earth shiteness of The Room. A mid-plot trip to Las Vegas is beautifully shot, evoking feelings of intoxication and freedom. But technical issues such as off-putting background noise, camera jitters and frustrating lighting (white balance, hello) drag the film down. Sestero’s script often looks back to his past, with lines like “Oh hi Jon”, and the pair throwing a basketball around. This isn’t a sequel to The Room, but it certainly feels like its spiritual successor, almost as if Sestero is offering his own contribution to the legacy which has made him more famous than he had any right to be. Vol 2. will arrive later this year, and if the showreel of perverse imagery that follows the films climatic scene is anything to go by, it could be an even weirder ride.
Best F(r)iends isn’t as bad as The Room, and that’s exactly its problem. Fans of the ‘best worst movie ever’ will have fun, and yes, it’s not all terrible, but this just isn’t cult material.