‘The Room’ follow-up ‘Best F(r)iends: Volume 1’ is a surreal treat

James Poole

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel — the list of famous duos goes on and on.

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are certainly getting up there, at least in terms of internet recognizability. For those unaware, Wiseau and Sestero came to prominence in “The Room.” Starring, written, produced and directed by Wiseau in 2003, that unbelievably awkward flick, which co-starred Sestero, became known for its “so bad it’s good” quality and quickly became a cult classic.

Much of this is owed to the eccentricity of Wiseau himself, who seemed hilariously out-of-place in his attempt at romantic comedy. Filmmakers like these aren’t known for their self-awareness, but as his second collaboration with Sestero, who wrote and produced their latest film, “Best F(r)iends: Volume 1,” shows this dynamic duo may have a future with movies.

As the title implies, this installment of “Best F(r)iends” is the first half of a two-part epic. Directed by Justin MacGregor, the film follows Jon (Sestero), a drifter who wanders into Los Angeles only to be taken in by mortician Harvey (Wiseau), who sets Jon up with a job. As their friendship blossoms, Jon hatches a scheme with Harvey: take the gold teeth out of the bodies in order to melt them down for additional cash.

As their cash flow increases, Jon starts to grow suspicious of Harvey. As the truth begins to come to the forefront, friends turn to fiends in a rollicking journey that leads to a tense encounter that will change both of their lives forever.

There’s no beating around the bush: “Best F(r)iends: Volume 1” is strange. However, unlike “The Room,” this appears intentional.

Sestero’s script plays to each actor’s strengths. Wiseau is fantastic as Harvey because the film allows him to be unhinged, theatrical, unpredictable — everything that he’s known for. Sestero, on the other hand, is understated and sympathetic as Jon, and the two form a genuine bond that successfully translates their real life friendship into a fictional one.

The story here that Sestero has concocted is fascinating. All the details, including the bizarre gold teeth plan and implications of a character’s ties to the Black Dahlia murders, give the film a sense of character that’s supplemented by strong character-driven set pieces. A trip to Vegas is heart-warming while the climax set on the edge of a cliff brings all the story threads to a pulse-pounding head. Well, as much of a head as the first half of a film will allow.

The real surprise here is the avant-garde nature of the filmmaking on display. McGregor stages many of these scenes in a very surreal nature that’s as shocking as it is effective. While the cinematography can look cheap at times, at others, it’s stunningly unique.

Moreover, the editing and musical score, which is composed by Daniel Platzman of Imagine Dragons, establishes a unique, noir-ish atmosphere that persists long after one leaves the theater. Though the movie doesn’t always work, it’s extremely fun to be in this strange world where expecting the unexpected is the status quo.

The term “guilty pleasure” has been thrown around a lot for “The Room”, but it’s not applicable here. “Best F(r)iends: Volume 1” is a legitimately great film that showcases unseen talent from Wiseau and Sestero that could lead to even better things for them in the future. If the point of this film was to get the audience to buy a ticket to “Volume 2,” it succeeded.

 

  • “Best F(r)iends: Volume 1”
  • Running Time: 108 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Score: 4/5 stars