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Review: Best F(r)iends Vol 1.

Written by Greg Sestero and directed by Justin MacGregor, “Best F(r)iends” is the reunion piece of the infamous duo behind “The Room” in Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau. This time around with Sestero taking the writing and producing duties and outsourcing the directorial workload to MacGregor, Tommy Wiseau’s only focus was on the craft of his acting. Which was indeed, a wise decision. Okay, first, we must pause. If you missed “The Disaster Artist” this last year and have no idea what “The Room” is, then you’re in for a world of questions.. and possibly concerns. Tommy Wiseau was the writer, director, star, and producer of “The Room” a midnight movie cult unicorn of sorts released in 2003. Several critics at the time labeled it as the worst movie of all time but after awhile it garnered a status all its own for all of the curious filmmaking decisions, the enigmatic screeching of Tommy Wiseau’s lead character Johnny in particular, and the plot threads left unexplained. In fact I heavily suggest giving “The Disaster Artist” a watch before diving into “Best F(r)iends” to know whether or not this is something you might enjoy. Back to the movie at hand though.

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“Best F(r)iends” begins with a bearded and bloodied Jon (Sestero) waking abruptly a la Daniel Craig in “Cowboys and Aliens”. He’s a drifting homeless veteran that makes clever panhandling signs around Los Angeles. Shortly after we’ve been introduced to Jon we’re given creeping shots of a hearse with a purple underglow and purple headlights (the headlights are purple in some scenes and regular in others) seemingly stalking him. Enter Harvey (Wiseau) the mortician. Jon happens upon the alleyway where Harvey’s morgue operates and as the odd funeral director is pulling a casket from the back of the hearse he heckles Jon for help. Thus begins a beautiful f(r)iendship. Harvey proposes that Jon work for him (although he seemingly forgets this later and harasses him for looking homeless [several times] and not having a job or money) at the morgue and the mute (for some reason Jon is voiceless before he meets Harvey) Jon agrees.

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The plot from there revolves around Jon seeing the potential in Harvey’s work with boxes of gold fillings from the dead just lying around and they quickly start a trade in the black market of dental scrap. There’s some actual drama in the film and perhaps it only works because of the surreal and weird nature of the film as a whole, but I was honestly impressed with a few scenes. However, that is not why I, nor most came to see this movie. We came for the mistakes, the gaffes, and the specifically curious decisions that went into the production of the movie. For example, there is a number of shots spread throughout the movie that are in slow motion.. for no reason at all. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it and it constantly resulted in bemused laughter in my theater. There’s plenty of random things in the background of shots that also produced bewildered guffaws- like random boxes with the label “Mouth Stuff” written in sharpie. Or the fact that the DVD of “The Room” is hidden in several scenes. Or the more obviously odd choice of keeping their black market funds in an ATM in a shed.

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The movie has a few things going for it that take it a step or two above the quality of “The Room”. There is better cinematography this time around, the equipment they have access to is more polished- but some things are still out of focus at times (though this is rare compared to “The Room”). The score is unwieldy, but in the best sense. It plays over a string of montages granting the film a more absurdist texture- which helps to enhance the strangeness of everything surrounding it. The writing is better, but definitely stilted and unnatural, which could have been intentional this time around. As Sestero wrote the screenplay instead of Wiseau, you can only imagine that this must be a pairing of his perception of his oddball acting partner along with all the intricacies that Wiseau himself brings to the table. Which brings me to the greatest asset of the film, Tommy Wiseau. This time the weird and awkward elaborateness of Wiseau plays into his character which allows him to be as untethered and as quirky as he feels he needs to be. Wiseau has startling and screeching one liners such as “YOU CANNOT BREAK ME!” when he’s only been startled by Sestero’s Jon in the alleyway when he already knows who Jon is in the story. He sings some of his lines for no known reason and his, many, non-sequiturs inspire a whimsical brand of madness that is uniquely, and unequivocally, Wiseau. Sestero on the other hand, seems to have gotten better at acting in the interim. He does a surprisingly effective job of holding a sadness in his eyes, but he can often be seen acting, where the illusion is broken and the audience may feel as though they are watching college theatre, but God bless him, he tries.

Final Score: Hundreds of gold fillings and 1 dead clown

The movie ends with their version of a Marvel stinger for the second Volume coming in June, and I have to admit it- I’m gonna have to go see it. The first Volume was entertaining enough, plus the second half looks to be possibly more insane than the first!

Best F(r)iends Vol 2. will be released through Fathom Events on June 1st and 4th nationwide.

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Review: The Disaster Artist

Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and directed by James Franco, “The Disaster Artist” is the true story of the making of the now infamous cult classic/midnight movie extraordinaire, “The Room”. At the center of this hurricane of a film production is the friendship between Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). The film begins with Greg taking an acting class in San Francisco where he timidly makes an attempt at the scene he’s been given before quietly sitting back down. Immediately after that the acting teacher asks if anyone else would like to make an attempt at the material. One lone voice responds to that call. Tommy Wiseau meanders down the stairs and proceeds to throw everything at his scene, quite literally. He grumbles and screeches, climbs the set structures to jump off and dramatically lay out on the floor- all while wailing without shame. This is Wiseau in a nutshell, confident and shameless-even when his instincts betray his intentions. Greg, meanwhile, is mesmerized by this display of fearlessness and seeks out Tommy after class to seek an attempt at capturing what Wiseau has in spades, confidence beyond measure and consideration. The long-haired and heavily accented force of nature accepts and after a scene in a diner where he pushes Greg to recite some lines loudly while ignoring the onlooking of everyone in the restaurant, they agree to go to Los Angeles to break into acting. These small moments are the foundation upon which the rest of the film rests, two weird nobodies sharing a dream and conspiring to beat the odds and secure that dream.

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This movie could have easily been a joke where the audience laughs at the ridiculous nature and choices of Tommy Wiseau and crew (and admittedly we do), but the film makes a serious effort to never make Wiseau the butt of the joke in a malevolent or mean-spirited fashion. It’s more along the lines of the audience rooting for Wiseau and Sestero, but then laughing when they fail in spectacular fashion. There’s an admirable stab at infusing humanity into the mysterious Wiseau so that we don’t feel as though we’re kicking him when he’s down. Instead the laughter is complimented by a hand offering assistance and encouragement at another go at it.

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After living and striving in Los Angeles for several months with next to nothing to show for their acting efforts, Sestero and Wiseau ultimately decide to try and make their own film instead. With Tommy’s seemingly endless funds and ambition the two scrape together a production crew, and cast the film with much bluster and blundering involved. If you know anything about the basics of filmmaking you’ll find a lot to laugh about. For example, Tommy and Greg go to a film rental shop to get some gear and instead of renting the expensive cameras, lenses, and filmstock, Wiseau opts to simply buy it all, both the film and the video cameras- everything. The budget details for “The Room” must have been staggering and quite amusing. Like choosing to build an alleyway set that looks exactly like the one just outside the studio, or the questionable choice to green-screen the Los Angeles skyline- of which they also have access to. That’s just the tip of the myriad of oddball and expensive creative choices that led to the creation of this very specific movie.

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“The Disaster Artist” is an oddball of entertainment. The Franco brothers did a lot to portray the two midnight movie makers with heart and ambition, and that’s why the film succeeds at the end of the day. Sure, the weirdly acute creative decisions of “The Room” provide hearty laughter with it’s most infamous scenes recreated, “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!” and “Oh Hai Mark” among many others, but with the grounded focus on friendship and creative ambition against all odds (and then some), “The Disaster Artist” repurposes that same love for the cinema that got so many people involved in filmmaking to begin with. Perhaps the strangest product to come from Hollywood in years, this film was a joy to watch, and laugh with.

 

Final Score: 158 takes of “Oh Hai Mark”

*Oh and for a more in depth look into the horde of celebrity and comedian cameos in the film, check this out:

https://www.wmagazine.com/story/the-disaster-artist-celebrity-cameos-guide

P.S. The next pairing of these two titans of B-movie mania is actually right around the corner. “Best F(r)iends”, written by Sestero and starring both Wiseau and Sestero, has been described as ‘like a Hitchcock noir- but with Tommy Wiseau‘ So that should be quite the unique piece. I say check it out, (I actually will be seeing this one) you probably won’t see anything like it- their track record indicates as much.

P.P.S. It’s also being released in two volumes, a la “Kill Bill”, Vol. 1 will play in 600 select theaters nationwide on March 30 and April 2, followed by Vol. 2 on June 1 and June 4.