BEST F(R)IENDS Review: Giving Tommy Wiseau His Due
Cards on the table, I am absolutely the target audience for Best F(r)iends. When making new friends of my own, I subject them to The Room as a litmus test, because if you understand the comic and sympathetic appeal of Tommy Wiseau, then you and I are likely to get along swimmingly. I’m the type of person who devoured Greg Sestero’s memoir The Disaster Artist in one sitting, and when the film adaptation was announced I followed news of its production religiously for years until its release last December. I am fascinated by Tommy Wiseau, the mystery of his origins, and the bizarre niche success he stumbled his way into, and I am just as much invested in the friendship that Sestero and Wiseau developed and continue to maintain in their storied two decades together, despite being such clearly distinct individuals from one another. So yes, the idea of Sestero writing a film to give his best friend an opportunity to finally play a role tailored to his wholly unique screen presence does, in fact, intrigue me greatly, and while Best F(r)iends is not necessarily immediately accessible for newcomers to the cult of Wiseau—and it certainly isn’t a film without its faults—it does provide a remarkably fitting pedestal for one of the strangest performers of our time.
The film opens on Jon (Sestero), a homeless man with blood on his shirt trying to get by, speechlessly begging on the street with clever cardboard signs. He attracts the notice of an independent mortician named Harvey (Wiseau), whose eccentricities include a predilection toward platform heels and a desire to pamper and love the bodies under his care. Harvey recruits Jon as a helper, only to quickly bond with him in a friendship that builds into a business partnership. Meanwhile, Jon discovers that Harvey is sitting on a mountain of gold dental scrap extracted from the mouths of the bodies that pass into his care, and Jon concocts a scheme to sell the gold, pushing this new friendship to the limits of honesty and trust.
Though the film is being marketed as a dark comedy in much the same way that The Room was after it found its initial cult following, the general tone and production value of Best F(r)iends is markedly more consistently dramatic and, dare I say it, professional. There are certainly jokes written into the script, as anyone who has seen the soon-to-be-infamous clown scene can attest, but much of the comedy seems to have developed organically, allowing Wiseau’s wildly gesticulating performance to add dimension to a character that feels at once like an extension of the actor’s infamous personality and an entirely new creation, as if we’re seeing where Wiseau and Sestero’s perception of Wiseau meet in the middle. This is a film that revels in the oddity of Wiseau’s particular persona, but instead of painting him as an object of derision, intentional or otherwise, we’re instead given a glimpse at how Sestero himself must feel about this emphatic over-actor, this larger than life character who can’t help but overbear every performance he gives. This in no way robs Jon and Harvey’s character drama of its stakes, but instead informs it, as Wiseau’s unconventional persona gives Sestero a basis for adverse reaction and compulsive fascination.
As for the film itself, director Justin MacGregor certainly plays into the absurdity of the script’s strange premise and twisted plotting. Taken as a whole, the pacing of the experience is a little flabby and unwieldy—partly due, no doubt, to the film having now been split into two volumes—but MacGregor and Sestero seem to have taken cues from David Lynch of all people. There is a pervading sense of surreality to the proceedings, as Daniel Platzman’s score overbearingly plays over montages and scenes that convey more bewildering emotion than they do coherent plot details. This isn’t to say that the story of Best F(r)iends isn’t cogent, just that it leans heavily into a style that complements the incomprehensibility of its star.
As Best F(r)iends closes in on the credits and the subtitle Volume One appears after the cliffhanger ending, a trailer for Volume Two comes out swinging for what promises to be an even more absurd continuation of a story that was already pretty unbelievable to see on the big screen. To judge this first volume as a whole film is a little disingenuous, as there are too many plot threads left unexplored and the two leading character arcs are left completely unresolved, but should Volume Two prove to escalate these already dizzying heights, their collective length should be no bar to Best F(r)iends accruing a cult following in its own right. Greg Sestero once described Best F(r)iends as the culmination of “a perfect, insane trilogy” after The Room and The Disaster Artist, as it is the final fulfillment of Wiseau’s and Sestero’s mutual promise to make it together as actors. Having now seen the results of their reunion collaboration, not only can I say they’ve succeeded, but I also can’t wait to see how it ends.