THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"BEST FRIENDS FOREVER"
Best Friends Forever is a hipster road trip movie with an unusual twist. It begins at a party for Harriet (Brea Grant), who has just been released from a mental institution and is planning to move from Los Angeles to Austin so she can attend grad school. Harriet convinces her best friend Reba (Vera Miao) to accompany her on the trip. As they leave L.A. behind, the two young women fail to notice the giant mushroom cloud in their rearview mirror. The rest of the film documents their trip, as they travel through the desert, unaware of the calamity that is taking place. Eventually, they can no longer outrun the truth. Radiation is everywhere.
Does that sound depressing? It's really not, although that may be because the movie doesn't tell its story particularly well. The screenplay – written by the two leads – takes a lot of shortcuts, often sacrificing substance for simplicity. For example, we learn that Harriet has mental health problems because someone approaches her and literally asks, Hey, what was it like being in an institution? Multiple situations in the film are handled with that kind of apathetic staging. There is also a very large problem with tone. Best Friends Forever has trouble figuring out what kind of movie it wants to be. Some scenes - such as the one where Reba moons a passing vehicle, thus failing to notice its passengers are all wearing gas masks – play comically, while other scenes play with great portentousness. I really wasn't sure whether the film was supposed to be a tragedy or a pitch-dark satire. Perhaps the biggest issue is that Best Friends Forever isn't as deep as it thinks it is. You sense it's trying to make some big statement about the nature of friendship, but as the dramatic final scenes play out, all you get is a rather obvious sentiment about friends sticking together no matter what.
On the plus side, the two leads are good. Grant and Miao are presumably friends in real life, having collaborated on the script. Their chemistry comes across in a very authentic manner. Grant also gets the best moment in the film, in which Harriet figures out what's happened. The look of terror on her face really conveys the horror of learning about a calamity. A few scattered moments like this point to what Best Friends Forever could have been with more story development.
I think there's a seed of a cool idea buried in here and, quite frankly, Best Friends Forever would have been better taking a more comic approach. The effort is certainly admirable, but the execution doesn't quite work.
( 1/2 out of four)
Note: Best Friends Forever is available on iTunes starting July 1 and VOD platforms on July 5.
Best Friends Forever is unrated but contains language, sexual material, and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at Amazon.com!