Best Man Down
Justin Long, Jess Weixler, Tyler Labine, Addison Timlin, Shelley Long, Frances O’Connor, Evan Jones, Michael Landes1h
PG-13 for thematic material, drug content, some sexuality and brief language.
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How well do you know your significant other’s best friend? How well do you know your own best friend? Best Man Down takes a interesting, though heavily flawed look at marital relationships, friendships and the desperation inherent in a unwhole soul.
Lumpy (Tyler Labine) is a lovable but drunken best man at his friend Scott’s (Justin Long) wedding to the increasingly neurotic Kristin (Jess Weixler). A disturbing force at the wedding, Scott must try to coax Lumpy out of the festivities to keep the party from devolving further than it already has. That evening, Lumpy stumbles into the night, trips his way through the desert and dashes his head on a rock. Within fifteen minutes, the film turns from uncomfortable humor and familiarity to tragedy.
Director Ted Koland wrote the film’s screenplay, which attempts to use standard indie tropes of blended humor and drama to explore the sanity, identity and humanity of the Lumpy character. [SPOILER]Through the lens of his best friend and his wife, we learn that Lumpy had a soft heart where his friends were concerned and often dismissed his own personal well-being to ensure that they were taken care of. In an attempt to care for himself, Lumpy takes an interest in a young girl in northern Minnesota where he hopes to improve her life of depression, thereby bolstering his own perceived failures and insecurities[/SPOILER].
What makes the film so lacking in originality is in how it tries to create turnmoil and frailties in each character so that everyone is as damaged as the central focus. Scott is trusting but protective of Lumpy even when his wife’s needs are at stake. Kristin worries about things outside her control, which leads her to a drug addiction. Ramsey (Addison Timlin), the girl whose mysterious number appears in Lumpy’s cellphone’s sparse contact list, must contend with a mother taken in by an abusive boyfriend and unable to escape any other way, even after talking with a resident priest (Michael Landes). The family members that surround them are caricatures of familiar neurotic stereotypes with no intended character develop to flesh them out.
The film’s only saving grace is its revelation of Lumpy’s depth as a human being (referenced in the spoiler section above). Everything else about the film is a haphazard, rote exploration of common and overused cliches discussing friendship and relationships. The performances aren’t terribly interesting. Long and Weixler are most notably subpar, creating individuals the audience doesn’t really care about. Labine does fine as Lumpy, but is given too little to do. Timlin is the only actor in the film who gives us something fresher than we’re accustomed to, a character whose unsurety and lack of confidence echo a frequent archetype of teen angst that needs better and more compelling development than the light touch seen in this film.
Best Man Down has few strengths and questionable weaknesses. It’s a middle-brow indie dramedy that lacks the layers of depth stronger screenwriters could have given the material. It’s not particularly funny and isn’t particularly dramatic and the attempts to fuse the two without richly developing either make for a time-consuming and limitedly-rewarding experience.
November 4, 2013