Editor’s note: This piece is part of a series on the 2018 Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival.
Despite the small number of reviews of Best F(r)iends: Volume One (2017), Ben Pearson manages to cover all the bases and articulate most of what I felt watching the film. I only want to add a few things.
On the whole, this second film acting gig for Tommy Wiseau is more structured and has the semblance of competence, which somehow makes it worse. Produced and written by Greg Sestero and directed and edited by Justin MacGregor, its entire raison d’être is James Franco’s The Disaster Artist (2017), after seeing which Sestero decided to make a film for Wiseau. And of course both Franco’s film and this one wouldn’t’ve existed without The Room (2003), the less said about which the better. In any case, it’s nigh impossible to see this film without having those two in mind.
The main problem with this film is its lack of interiority. Almost every shot and scene is a cliché, staged and shot as if the filmmakers had no cinematic vision other than the conventional wisdom of what a scene should look like to communicate a particular thing. Sestero plays Jon as if Owen Wilson looked like Dave Franco when playing innocent and Sam Rockwell when playing dirty, and he pulls it off because we have no idea what kind of person he really is. Wiseau plays Harvey as himself, of course, but the role is written with Wiseau so firmly in mind that the callback humor tries too hard, and of the dozens and dozens of Wiseau gags, only four are actually funny.
But what really gets my goat is that it claims to be based on a true story—apparently, the only true part is the road trip near the end of this first volume. Even though most of the audience let out cries of exasperation when it was revealed that there’d be a second volume, I sighed in relief. I won’t have to sit through the whole thing after all.