Best F(r)iends: Volume One
The stars of The Room are back, but can lightning strike twice?
The worst movie ever made. The best worst movie. A film so inexplicably inept that it's somehow enjoyable. From painfully hilarious to laughably excruciating, The Room has earned every reaction imaginable since it first premiered 15 years ago — groans, cheers, spoons thrown at screens and a pitch-perfect behind-the-scenes dramatisation in The Disaster Artist all included. That leaves Best F(r)iends: Volume One with considerable shoes to fill, although what constitutes success for Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau's second big-screen collaboration isn't quite the same as other movies. Should the duo's new project serve up another so-bad-it's-good cult flick? A genuine attempt to demonstrate its stars' real talents? Something with enough references to The Room to keep fans interested? Or just a picture that's simply watchable?
Prepare to say "oh hi" to a film that won't make you want to hurl cutlery (either ironically or out of annoyance), but won't stick in your mind for much more than the obvious reasons. A dark comedy that garners laughs on purpose this time, Best F(r)iends is a moody and odd exploration of a moody and odd friendship between a drifter and a mortician. Signs about ninjas, a black market in human teeth, a corpse dressed as a clown and a decades-old murder case all feature. So does a fiendish plan to steal an ATM filled with cash, and Wiseau finally telling people where he's from (if you're wondering, the answer is "planet earth").
Dishevelled, down on his luck and wearing a white t-shirt covered in blood, Jon (Sestero) is struggling to get by on the Los Angeles streets. Writing pithy lines on pieces of cardboard to beg for money isn't going well, with only black-clad, lank-locked, platform shoes-wearing undertaker Harvey Lewis (Wiseau) giving him the time of day. More than that, Harvey gives Jon a job at his backstreet morgue, and soon they become business partners. Between moving coffins, preparing bodies and hearing Harvey's strange odes to his dead clientele, Jon discovers that his new pal has a stash of gold dental scrap extracted from the dead — and that it's worth a lot of money.
Writing the script as well as starring, Sestero drew upon two real-life elements for Best F(r)iends: Volume One. Firstly, trading in dental gold really happens. Secondly, on a road trip back in 2003, Wiseau thought Sestero was trying to kill him. Both shape the film's plot, although the needlessly convoluted story could use a little more shaping. Originally conceived as one picture but split into two after shooting, Best F(r)iends: Volume One drags out its narrative to set things up for the forthcoming Volume Two. But while it ends on an obvious (yet still intriguing) cliffhanger, much of what comes before spends too long catering to Wiseau's unusual mannerisms and cultivating a bizarre atmosphere.
To be fair, making this film without playing up the absurdity of its premise and its star would be unthinkable. Indeed, most of its modest highlights spring from knowing and loving both The Room and The Disaster Artist, rather than from Best F(r)iends itself. That said, throwing in a scene where Jon and Harvey chat while passing a basketball around (sound familiar?) threatens to take things a little too far. If this is your first introduction to Wiseau and Sestero, it'll seem especially weird. But let's be honest, the only people seeing Best F(r)iends are folks who can recite most of The Room's iconic lines in their sleep.
Also, let's be clear: Best F(r)iends: Volume One isn't The Room. It nods to the cult hit, leans on it, but knows that it can't recreate its predecessor. That kind of lightning doesn't strike twice and can't be forced — and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to the individual viewer. With near-newcomer Justin McGregor directing, Best F(r)iends: Volume One is softly shot, montage-heavy and a little too eager to be seen as a mix of Nightcrawler and Mullholland Drive, yet still proves competently made. And if you find yourself actually engaged by Wiseau's stilted performance and his completely unique presence, then the movie definitely achieves something. It won't tear you apart with laughter or leave you wondering how in the hell it got made, but very few films can manage that.