Tommy and Greg’s reunion film offers both Room-esque laughs and a very watchable thriller.
If you’re not familiar with the 2003 Tommy Wiseau movie The Room, you soon will be. The so-bad-it’s-good cult favorite is about to gain even more notoriety, as James Franco’s film adaptation of its making-of memoir, The Disaster Artist, tours the festival circuit and gears up for general release in December (watch the new trailer).
Having read The Disaster Artist, I’ve been looking forward to seeing its story brought to life on screen. It chronicles not only the making of The Room but also the growth of the friendship between writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau and line producer/co-star Greg Sestero. But perhaps even more exciting is another film whose announcement came out of nowhere last year. It’s the pair’s first collaboration since The Room: a low-budget thriller called Best F(r)iends, written by Sestero and directed by Justin MacGregor (himself a fan). Its gory, surreal trailer had fans wondering what to expect. Would it be like The Room? Would it try too hard to be funny (as Wiseau’s painfully unamusing The Neighbors sitcom did)?
Watching a work-in-progress cut of Best F(r)iends at the Prince Charles last week, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, mostly as a Roomie but also for its rather intriguing story.
The Los Angeles-set story centers on a homeless drifter (Sestero) who starts working for a reclusive mortician (Wiseau). They go into business together with a lucrative but questionable venture. A friendship starts to blossom, but differences over the money they amass quickly breed distrust, descending into a web of lies, manipulation and death masks. At times, the drama can be more amusing than threatening, but I found myself drawn in by the dark, original plot and the authentic rapport that builds between the two characters.
Wiseau’s mortician — disarming and full of life in a macabre setting (with hints of a darker backstory) — is a delight to watch. He is clearly having a ton of fun in the role, and while his lines and delivery may evoke laughter, it totally fits this oddball character. Sestero’s drifter is less interesting. He casually mentions having “worked in the army” but you’d never know it from his behaviour; he presents more as a youth in need of a carer. A “babyface”, you might say.
The film is artfully put together and often very beautifully shot. Out-of-place cuts to nighttime vistas of Santa Monica Pier or downtown LA threaten to be this movie’s “meanwhile in San Francisco”, but they create atmosphere, as does the music by Imagine Dragons’ Daniel Platzman. It makes for some surprisingly emotive moments, particularly when the pair goes on a road trip — though I’m not sure if this is more the fact that I have just grown very fond of Wiseau and Sestero over the past four years.
That’s the nub of it really — Best F(r)iends is very much a film for The Room fans. Though it does not explicitly reference that film (other than a couple of little homages), it has a very similar feel in that it is a serious dramatic story that just happens to be written and performed in unintentionally hilarious ways.
And just as The Room was inspired by some of Wiseau’s own experiences (with some Talented Mr Ripley thrown in), it is hard not to see an autobiographical streak in Sestero’s script: a young man comes to LA penniless and falls in with an unconventional and strangely appealing older brother figure, joins in his oddball venture and tries to make his own mark with it.
Best F(r)iends is a worthy successor to The Room, capturing some of its riotous magic while also offering something new and memorable.