BEST F(R)IENDS – VOLUME 1 (2018)

Movie Review by LLS

Everything about the new movie BEST F(R)IENDS is a little off. First, it doesn’t seem to be getting a regular theatrical release. Instead, I had to go to a special two-night-only showing at a local theater (it only played on Friday and Monday nights at 8pm). Second, for some bizarre reason, the movie has been split in half, a la KILL BILL, into two separate volumes. Volume 1 (which I am reviewing now) came out now in the very limited release I mentioned. Volume 2 is due out in June.

I don’t know if it will be going to a streaming service after the brief theatrical events. And if you don’t live near a theater that showed these movies at all, I’m not sure how you would see them. But I’m assuming they’ll be more accessible as time goes on.

If you’re like me, then you’ve been waiting for an awful long time for a new movie starring Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, the two stars of Wiseau’s “so awful it’s wonderful” classic 2003 film THE ROOM. Since Wiseau first released THE ROOM, it has gone on to become a midnight movie in many cities, and, of course, was the inspiration for the recent acclaimed James Franco film THE DISASTER ARTIST (based on the book by Sestero and Tom Bissell, about the actual filming of THE ROOM).  While it was hilarious to see James Franco made up to look (and act) like Tommy Wiseau, and THE DISASTER ARTIST made Wiseau more famous to mainstream America, the fact is, fans of THE ROOM have wanted to see another movie with Wiseau actually starring in it himself, for a very long time.

Since 2003, Wiseau has been involved in a lot of projects, including short films like THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD ON ALEX (2010), and HOMELESS IN AMERICA (2004, which he directed); low-budget fare like SAMURAI COP 2: DEADLY VENGEANCE (2015) and REVENGE OF SAMURAI COP (2017); and lots of TV shows (for streaming and the Internet) such as THE TOMMY WI-SHOW (2011), and his pet project THE NEIGHBORS (2014-2016). The fact is, Tommy has not directed another feature film since THE ROOM. Why? With his growing fame, you’d think he would cash in and try to put more movies out there.

BEST F(R)IENDS VOLUMES 1 AND 2 are not directed or written by Tommy Wiseau, however. I’m not really sure why. Maybe he shot his wad with THE ROOM and has no more big movie ideas? Maybe he ran out of money after spending the reputed $6 million to finance THE ROOM (which Wiseau claims now, with midnight showings, he has finally made a profit on)? No one knows. His motives are as mysterious as his background and financial status.

But BEST F(R)IENDS is still important for Wiseau fans, because it marks the first time Wiseau and Greg Sestero have been reunited in a movie since 2003, and while it’s directed by Justin MacGregor (who previously made mostly short films), the script is by Sestero himself.

Remember when I said that the movie is a little off? Well, aside from all this odd background stuff, the movie itself is also quite odd, and while this is certainly in the spirit of the Wiseau/Sestero history we know and love, I’d have to say that Sestero is a pretty bad screenwriter, but he’s not as godawful-bad-bordering-on-genius that Wiseau is. I wish Tommy would write another movie!

But BEST F(R)IENDS is what we have, and so let’s dive into it. Because, while not as off-the-wall batshit crazy as THE ROOM 2 might have been, it’s still pretty weird—and I mean that in a good way.

The movie begins with a homeless guy named Jon Kortina (Sestero) waking up in a park. He’s bruised and bloody and his T-shirt has huge bloodstains on it. It really looks like someone tried to kill this guy.  He then goes about washing himself off in a public park (it doesn’t help much) and making cardboard signs that say things like “My Family Was Kidnapped by Ninjas and I Need Money for Karate Lessons.” He panhandles on a bridge, flashing his sign at passing traffic. One of the commuters who notices him is Harvey Lewis (Wiseau), who drives a long white hearse, because he’s a mortician.

After seeing him wandering around his funeral parlor (which looks more like a small warehouse), Harvey takes pity of Jon and offers to pay him if he’ll clean up the place. At first, Jon says nothing and we (and Harvey) just assume he’s a mute. But then, after Harvey gives him a helping hand, Jon shaves off his beard and practices talking again (why does he need to practice?). He returns to Harvey’s mortuary the next day asking for a regular job. Harvey gives him a hard time, but relents.

I’m not really sure what Harvey’s game is. He claims to be a mortician, and certainly has the parlor and equipment, but does he have a license? He seems to be doing some shady work, and his specialty is creating rubber masks to put on the faces of bodies that have been disfigured in death, so that they look better. He says he can give them the faces of whoever they want, including movie stars. After the first night they meet, Harvey even makes a rubber mask of Jon’s face and walks around wearing it!

While cleaning up, Jon stumbles on a weird storage area, and bags of gold teeth! Harvey has been extracting the teeth from his “customers” since they don’t need them anyway, and he claims it’s something to remember them by. Jon sees a commercial (and an ad in a copy of the Wall Street Journal) about a company that will turn “gold into cash,” so he grabs a bag of teeth and sets up an appointment, which takes him to a dentist’s office. He leaves with a big wad of hundred-dollar bills.

But Jon feels weird about it, and guilty, since he stole Harvey’s tooth collection to get the cash. Eventually, he gets up the nerve to tell Harvey (actually he writes it down and gives Harvey the letter to read). Harvey is furious at first, but then Jon talks him into becoming partners, since Harvey still has trunks full of gold teeth in his office (!!). Jon sets up a meeting with a guy who buys gold “dental scraps.”

This guy—a shady character named Andrei (Vince Jolivette, whose career has mostly been as a producer – he was even one of the producers of THE DISASTER ARTIST – but he’s also done a lot of acting, including roles on GENERAL HOSPITAL and a bunch of low-budget James Franco-directed movies), shows up at the mortuary, with two sexy girls played by Lyssa Roberts and Angelina Guido (I have no clue why he brought the girls). Andrei looks around the funeral parlor and basically gives Harvey a hard time as Jon looks on, not saying anything (he does that a lot). At one point, Harvey and Andrei even get into a big argument and almost decide not to do business together, but they calm down. When Harvey shows Andrei his huge stash of gold teeth, Andrei does a double-take and says they can make “stacks of money” together.

This results in some kind of business where Andrei sets up meetings and Harvey and Jon meet more shady characters in dark alleys and random parking lots to sell them bags of gold teeth in exchange for bags of money. This whole operation made zero sense to me! The way they had to set up meets in secret places looked like they were selling drugs!

Even though Jon comes clean to Harvey about stealing the teeth the first time—and he sets Harvey up with the people who will give him cash—Harvey puts all of the money they make in a safe inside a “classic” old ATM machine in a shed in back of his house. For some reason, Harvey doesn’t think it is “safe” to spend the money right away.

Meanwhile, Jon has met a cute bartender named Traci (Kristen StephensonPino), and they have started dating. In fact, she has let him stay at her place, since he has nowhere to live. Jon would like to take some of the money they earned from selling teeth to get a nice new condo for him and Traci, but Harvey won’t give him a penny. Meanwhile, Harvey spends lots of money on a vintage automobile “I talked him down from $95,000 to $80,000,” Harvey brags. Harvey also has some suspicious dealings with someone named Malmo (Paul Scheer, also of THE LEAGUE, 2009 – 2015, and HBO’s VEEP), who he is giving large amounts of money to ($300,000 to be exact, but we don’t know what for).

When Jon finally tells Traci the truth about what’s going on, they hatch an idea to get the money away from Harvey, in a plot involving a fake Rolling Stones concert ticket. But, while trying to make the plot work, the movie ends, and we have to wait for Volume 2 to find out the rest.

If the movie’s plotline sounds kind of insane, that’s because it is. But it also creates a lot of opportunities for completely bizarre behavior, mostly from Wiseau, who uses every chance he can to overact, which is why he’s so damn entertaining. Sestero is more of a straight man, but he has some very odd scenes as well. Such as when he appears to be mute in the beginning and then starts to talk (which makes no sense), and scenes where Jon is constantly sneaking around, spying on Harvey.

In a weird way, Wiseau and Sestero are kind of like the perfect comedy team for the 20-teens, because they’re so bizarre. Wiseau starts pontificating or suddenly singing for no reason, and his explanations for his behavior are just as strange as the behavior itself. Sestero, despite his good looks and the fact that he “gets the girl,” is like a cypher, never really exuding any strong sense of personality, to the point where some of the scenes focusing on Sestero almost stall the film. But this is corrected every time Wiseau is onscreen. The guy is incredibly watchable.

I also really liked the interactions between Wiseau and Vince Jolivette. Unlike Sestero, Jolivette has a strong personality – he’s gruff and initimidating – and this plays well against Wiseau’s eccentric personality, where he always has a strange reason for saying or doing something that makes no sense. The scenes where Wiseau and Jolivette begin arguing are pretty hilarious.

Even though “outsider” (ROOM-wise) MacGregor directed the film, it seems to hit certain odd familiar notes, no doubt due to Sestero’s script, like a scene where Harvey and Jon pass a basketball back and forth as they talk. I didn’t laugh as much as I did when I first saw THE ROOM, but I did laugh a lot, and so did the audience I saw it with (it was a sold-out crowd). I can’t really give this movie a knife rating, because it’s not about quality; it’s about putting out a strange product that will please Wiseau fans, and on that count BEST F(R)IENDS succeeds. While it was frustrating that the movie ends in the middle of things, and that we have to wait for Volume 2, I enjoyed the hell out of this one. I’m sure if I saw it again, I’d like it even more. And I’m looking forward to the second half. Also included with the showing I saw were some outtakes and a music video for a song called SCARY LOVE that stars Tommy.

If you’re a fan of Wiseau and Sestero, you’ll love it all. And if you have a chance to see it, go.

© Copyright 2018 by L.L. Soares

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