Film Review – Best Friends Forever
There’s a prolific kind of American independent film right now. Hungry young actors, writers, and directors get together with their friends, shoot a ponderously navel-gazing mumblecore-type movie using a handheld digital camera and working on a micro-budget. Often these movies end up looking cheap and poorly lit, with shots that barely move so as to conserve the budget for camera set-ups, and edits that last too long, belying student film origins. These kind of films are usually fueled by a lot of energy from a handful of people with more passion than talent. Often they float around to various independent film festivals before eventually ending up on your Netflix selections as something you’ve never heard of and ultimately forget to watch.
Unfortunately, watching these films doesn’t end up being anywhere near as fun as the filmmakers probably had making them. As an audience, you don’t necessarily want to denigrate excitement and creativity, but, objectively, the movie you just watched just isn’t very watchable. It ends up being the cinematic equivalent of when your friend or coworker asks you to come see their band and you end up spending the whole night pretending to enjoy their incoherent lyrics and instrumental noodling, then afterwards when they desperately ask you how you liked it, you reply with a sheepish “it was good.”
The purpose of this long preamble is to say what the new indie film Best Friends Forever is not. In short, this movie IS good. Directed by, co-written by, and co-starring Brea Grant, this movie is a pleasant surprise. It definitely is from this tradition of micro-budget indie film. But for films of that scale, it is definitely one of the better ones. The acting is much better than you usually see in this type of movie, the camera operator actually looks like they knew what they were doing (the film was shot in Super 16mm), and the editing keeps the pace sharp.
Best Friends Forever stars Grant as Harriet, a comic book artist who is making the trek from Los Angeles to Texas in order to attend grad school to become a librarian. She is accompanied by Reba (co-writer Vera Miao), a free spirit who likes to drink, non-committally hook-up with cute guys, and lives under the shadow of disappointing her strict mother. While on their road trip to Texas in Harriet’s old AMC Pacer, unbeknownst to them, an apocalypse happens. Nuclear bombs have gone off for unknown reasons. While the rest of the world is coming to grips with the possibility of millions dead, our protagonists are shielded for much of their trip by geography coupled with their own self-interest. Apparently OCD, Harriet has had some sort of recent stay in a mental health institution. She doesn’t like to talk about it. Alternately, Reba is carefree, but almost dangerously so. At one point while at a rest stop, Reba tries to convince Harriet to give three random hipster guys a ride in the car. They act a little creepy and end up stealing Harriet’s car. But the whole time, our protagonists don’t catch on to what is going on in the rest of the world. People are sick or going insane, but these two are dealing with their own issues.
Grant and Miao are immensely watchable. Both of them look to have done a lot of supporting work in TV and movies during their still young careers. However, as often is the case, meaty roles for ladies can be few and far between. So presumably these two decided to write themselves a script they could get behind. It shows. They both have depth and are fun to watch. Best Friends Forever should act as a good calling card in Hollywood.
Of course, this end-of-the-world genre is an oversaturated market at this point. This summer alone we have three bigger, similar productions in This Is The End, World War Z, and The World’s End. The movies have given us desolate hellscapes with Australians fighting over gas, lone survivors eking out a living in formerly populous cities, and zombies overrunning everything. So getting another addition to a story we’ve seen countless times can be a bit underwhelming.
But at least this time around we get to see women in the central roles. For instance, when these two confront the hipster car thieves later in the film, it ends up being a nice bit of comeuppance. And Reba’s reaction after doing what she does to get the car back feels surprisingly real. Also, watching them play a drinking game in an abandoned store that includes an entertaining explanation of the TV show Lost is a lot of fun. The characters end up really selling this little movie.
Yes, it’s an indie road movie. Yes, it’s a movie about the end of the world. Yes, at times its low budget roots show through. But for an interesting female-centric movie featuring strong acting and an inherently fun premise, Best Friends Forever is worth your time.
Final Grade: B