It seems that Tommy Wiseau has had the last laugh. Fifteen years ago, he spent $6 million to make The Room and grossed only $1,900 on its first release. Now, it’s become a cult phenomenon, and even though I’ve already seen the movie, I want to see it again. It’s so popular though, that my Netflix DVD queue says I have a “very long wait.” I think Wiseau has made his money back and then some.
Greg Sestero, the actor who played opposite Wiseau in The Room, wrote a best-selling memoir about the experience, The Disaster Artist. His book was made into an Oscar-nominated film of the same name. Sestero then wrote a screenplay called Best F(r)iends, and he and Wiseau are at it again. The movie is split into Volume One and Volume Two, with the first released nationwide through Fathom Events for just two nights, March 30 and April 2, 2018.
After seeing Best F(r)iends, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to laugh, but I did. Wikipedia labels the film a black comedy, but not all of the dozen or so people in the theater for the second (and last) showing of Best F(r)iends Volume One were laughing with me. The Fathom Events page says it’s a “journey of unprecedented comedic madness.” I guess I had been so conditioned from watching The Room, The Disaster Artist, and reading Sestero’s book, that everything in Best F(r)iends seemed cliché, hyperbolic—and designed to make me laugh. So, it did its job for me.
The opening scene, with Jon (Sestero) wearing a bloody T-shirt and sporting a cut-up face, reminded me of an SNL short. Jon is a homeless beggar who owns a rich variety of cardboard signs that he keeps under a bridge near the Santa Monica Pier. These signs contain messages that yes, he’s going to buy beer, or he’s a time traveler and needs money for plutonium, or his family has been abducted by ninjas and he needs money for martial-arts lessons to rescue them.
Harvey (Wiseau), an eccentric mortician, notices Jon as he passes by in his white hearse over the course of a few days. As Jon walks down the middle of an alleyway that Harvey wants to get through, Harvey blasts the horn. When Jon catches up and stands at the gate through which the hearse passed, the mortician is already trying to unload a casket. He sees Jon and calls to him, “Are you going to stand there like a statue of liberty?”
The f(r)iendship evolves from there. Harvey gives Jon a leg up, and Jon takes advantage of Harvey’s kindness. They embark on a get-rich scheme and Jon begins to think that Harvey is two-timing him. The suspicion on both sides is not helped at all by a young woman bartender Jon starts a romance with. Traci (Kristen StephensonPino) doesn’t like Harvey at all and rolls out a scheme to grab what she thinks Jon is entitled to. Only problem is, she’s not too bright, and neither is Jon.
Best F(r)sends Volume One ends with a pretty good cliff hanger and makes me look forward to the release of Volume Two, which will show around the country on June 1 and 4. I live in a city that has sparse indie pickings, so I’ll take a road trip if it doesn’t play here. And it might not, unless there were more people at the March 30 showing than the one I attended on April 2.
So, back to my original question about whether this movie was supposed to be funny or not. In addition to the two sources cited above, the official Best F(r)iends web site calls it a “cinematic saga that interweaves mystery, intrigue, and more than a few dark laughs . . .”
How can you not laugh at a clown who committed suicide, whose family photo contains a group of clowns? How can you not laugh at a mortician who stores his cash in his own ATM machine? How can you not laugh at the obvious nods to Wiseau’s classic lines from The Room? Or Tommy’s character wanting to lick his new car because he loves it so much? I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as you like the movie. I liked the laughs, but it’s the mystery and intrigue that will bring me back.
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