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Best Friends Forever
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by Jay Seaver

"It's good to have friends - whether to make a movie or survive a disaster."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE ETHERIA FILM FESTIVAL: Brea Grant has thus far had the sort of career that leads to a movie like "Best Friends Forever" - after a few instances of being the pretty good thing in disappointing productions and not having it lead to bigger and better things, it only makes sense to take matters into one's own hands and make a star vehicle rather than wait for one to come along. To a certain extent, Grant and co-star/co-writer Vera Miao have made another flawed picture, but being at the center rather than in supporting roles allows them to boost it a bit higher than they usually can.

The movie starts off with Los Angeles roommates Harriet (Grant) and Reba (Miao) throwing a party to celebrate Harriet getting into grad school to study library sciences in Austin. Goodbyes will be delayed a bit as Reba accompanies Harriet on a road trip to Texas, but it turns out to be a weird one, as the road seems strangely abandoned, they get carjacked by a trio of hipsters, and there just may be something to the apocalyptic rantings on the radio.

Both Grant and Miao have had writing credits before this (Grant in comics, Miao on a short film), but they are actors first, and they write like it. It's not hard to believe that there are complete, well-thought-out backstories for both characters that they can draw on as actors. And while there are moments when they appear to be hitting specific things fairly hard, the general feeling is of two people whose contrasting personalities complement each other very well. Grant's given herself a character that could fail to ring true because of how deliberately off-kilter she's meant to be, but she's able to rein the tics and selective self-awareness in to the point where Harriet is both deadpan funny and kind of sweet. Miao, meanwhile, is able to play Reba as much more relaxed and natural, although she plays well off Grant and proves capable of carrying both funny and tragic scenes as needed.

There's some nice work from the rest of the cast, too - most notably Stacey Storey as Harriet's sister and Tom Davies, Alex Berg & Alex Fernie as the guys they run into along the way. The latter group is both funny and desperate, and it's too bad they don't really get a better exit from the movie. That's a bit of an issue for the script all around, actually; Miao & Grant have fun ideas and a frequently wry sense of humor, their resolutions seldom mirror their set-ups in terms of cleverness. For instance, there's an intermittent "Hours Until Disaster" graphic that pops up to either boost the ominous mood and (in one case) provide some pitch-black humor, but once you start a countdown, you need something bigger than they've got for when it hits zero.

That's a moment when first-time director Grant stumbles; having done so well by playing things just low-key enough that Reba & Harriet not knowing what's going on doesn't make them look foolish and otherwise let the movie amble from one scene to the next, she really needs to let things blow up there more than she does. She is able to recover later, at least, and for the most part she's able to set a good pace. She does much better at playing to the strengths of herself and her cast than an actor who casts herself in her first directorial project might do; the movie seldom feels self-indulgent.

She and the other filmmakers don't have a lot of money to work with, and that can sometimes be a bigger issue than any lack of inexperience. A lot of the movie takes place at night, and not necessarily with the best equipment and resolution for it (although the grainy, too-dark look could just as easily be a bad compression job; it's hard to tell from the end product). It can sometimes be difficult to get a bead on just how apocalyptic the situation is - a sequence where the basic point is how empty and abandoned a place is will be followed by one where there's light but ordinary-seeming traffic in the background. On the other hand, when the movie does need visual effects, it gets enough to make an important scene work.

"Best Friends Forever" isn't good enough to be Grant's & Miao's "Good Will Hunting", or even their "Kissing Jessica Stein". It would be nice if it were, if only because, true to form, it's got better work in it than you might expect from a low-budget genre comedy.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24710&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/07/13 19:24:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Oxford Film Festival For more in the 2013 Oxford Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Slamdance Film Festival For more in the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
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  DVD: 25-Mar-2014

UK
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Australia
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Directed by
  Brea Grant

Written by
  Brea Grant
  Vera Miao

Cast
  Brea Grant
  Vera Miao
  Sean Maher
  Glen Powell
  Kit Williamson
  Alex Berg
  Alex Fernie
  Stacey Storey



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