Best Man Down Review

Best Man Down is a bemusing indie dramedy with Justin Long about those two rites of passage that mean so much: weddings and funerals.

The unspoken wisdom about attending friends’ weddings is that they tell you when you are an adult. However, it’s only after your first funeral that you’ll feel it. Best Man Down, like so much fiction before it, finds humor and pathos in the juxtaposition of these two rites of passage. Yet, despite its standard indie “dramedy” trappings, it also finds a surprisingly authentic center that is more than worth a knowing smile (though perhaps not a giggle).First time feature writer and director Ted Koland purports that Best Man Down’s bemusing premise is based on a true story that happened on a friend of a friend of a friend. Granted, he did not pursue the details to perchance learn if they were exaggerated. Why would you when it sets up such a gallows humor premise? During a destination wedding at a resort in the southwest, the best man who had a wee bit too much to drink winds up sprawled out in his underwear over a cactus in the morning. Dead.What could just as easily have been the set up for the next Hangover movie instead is framed in a traditional independent film dilemma about life and the choices that we make. Take Scott (Justin Long), a groom who has been groomed into the perfect honeymoon by the money leant to him from the perpetually breathless best man Lumpy (Tyler Labine). Lumpy has been his bud since childhood and will still give him thousands to make sure things go smoothly, yet on the day the wedding night, Lumpy’s apparent hard-living, which can be a gift for tropical getaways, has tripped him in the grave. Instead of spending the money on a week of fun, Scott and Kristin (Jess Weixler) must plaster their smiles fast and tight as they drive across the snow-strewn Midwest in hopes of creating the most passable funeral imaginable.  This set-up provides an interesting twist on the best friend vs. spouse struggle toyed with in many other comedies when one of the two in question is dead. Weixler is especially poignant as Kristin when she stresses to Scott there is a difference between his best friend and his oldest friend. Frankly, she may have a point when the groom fails to realize his best man has dropped out of law school or has moved well into upstate rural living. Yet, Koland’s script is smart enough to avoid the conflict coming from the cloying place of marital grievance between the appealing leads. Albeit, surviving the first week of a marriage by planning a slap-and-dash funeral is more of an endurance test than any barrage of counseling.No, the most intriguing element of the story, which is introduced very early, so as to alleviate the worst kind of suspicions from audiences, is what Lumpy’s relationship is with Ramsey (Addison Timlin), a 16-year-old girl who had been staying at his frequently occupied motel room in a small town. Considering its inherently sketchy insinuation, Scott and Kristin are understandably nervous about this revelation and left in the dark about the details for far longer than the audience is. More of a Greek Choir for these two sorting through their own emotional trauma after losing a friend (or slobbish anchor, depending on which side of the aisle you sit), Ramsey provides perspective on Lumpy’s life and the meaning of it. Most of all, Timlin proves a surprisingly fresh voice for conventional wisdom as she does battle with an alcoholic mother (Francis O’Connor) and the men in her life, and eventually with a bride and groom overstuffed with very reasonable questions about the exact nature of her relationship with the Lumps.Best Man Down is a slight movie that finds most of its enjoyment from a set of careful performances that never strike as either sentimental or foolhardy. Long and Wexiler do a fine job of involving the audience on their anti-bliss and showcase a Justin Long who is much more than the lame big budgets part he has gotten as of late. But the real show stealers are Labine in the many Lumpy flashbacks and eventually Timlin. Labine in particular finds the desperation for community often missing in the big screen lout, making his passing more of a tragedy than it had any right of seeming during the films opening moments. Lumpy at first glance is a very troubled man, but his boisterous thrill for living eventually twists into something far more well-earned than the typical archetypal excuse, and his ability to walk in the shoes of others finds some meaning in what could have been an empty cliché. Likewise, those people he invested in connecting over what boils down to a mini road trip of a picture also buttresses up the dark cloud hanging over head the whole running time with a silver lining that not only adds a warm fuzzy feeling to the denouement: It adds a real taste for life to the proceedings. For that, this fallen best man has certainly been risen up in eulogy.Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing.


3 out of 5