Monday, July 01, 2013

Best Friends Forever: Driving Off into the Apocalypse

When the apocalypse comes, books will definitely have an advantage over the internet.  An aspiring grad student would agree.  She was planning a career as a librarian.  Unfortunately, the end of the world complicates matters.  However, it takes a while for her and her hard partying BFF a while to notice Armageddon looming during their southwestern road trip in Brea Grant’s Best Friends Forever (trailer here), which releases today on itunes.

Harriet is the sensitive one, who spent a short stint in a mental hospital following a suicide attempt.  Following the long held tradition of low budget genre movies, her best pal Reba is kind of trampy.  After graduation, Harriet packs up the AMC Pacer for grad school in Texas, convincing Reba to tag along for the ride.  While they are on the road, a mysterious terrorist attack leads to a series of nuclear explosions.  The two women are not listening to the news though, preferring music and the occasional “Oprah” moment to the outside world.  Their first inklings something might be amiss comes when three hipsters carjack their Pacer.

Eventually, the breakdown of civilization strains their relationship.  Of course, nobody claims responsibility for the cataclysmic act of terror, lest the film offend anyone prone to offense.  In one awfully strange exchange, several characters want to blame North Korea, to which Reba replies she is Chinese, as if the PRC were as benign as Luxemburg.  Indeed, the third act threatens to undo much of the good will established by the co-leads, depicting a rather nasty nativist martial law sweeping across Texas.

Since Grant co-wrote and co-produced with her co-star Vera Miao, viewers are pretty much stuck with them as Harriet and Reba, respectively.  Fortunately, they have some nice bickering buddy-buddy chemistry together.  Still, this is clearly a genre film with a female audience in mind, casting men exclusively in either predatory or ineffectual roles.  While Grant comes in with geek credentials from appearances in Heroes and Halloween 2, as well as her work co-writing the 1920’s zombie comic We Will Bury You with her brother Zane, neither of the two seems particularly comfortable with the odd action scene.  Frankly, everyone in BFF would rather talk than do anything else, but the dialogue does not have the sort of snap it should.

Putting a Pacer in the center of an end-of-the-world road movie is pretty ingenious.  Employing the apocalypse as a prism through which to examine personal and social relationships is also a promising strategy, yielding mixed results in this case.  There are some appealing moments of friendship under extreme circumstance in BFF.  Nonetheless, it never approaches the attitude or verve of Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet, the gold standard for zeitgeisty generational Doomsday movies.  

More chick flick (deliberately referencing Thelma & Louise) than midnight movie, Best Friends Forever should satisfy those looking for the former, albeit with a smidge of an edge.  Flawed but interesting, it releases this week on VOD platforms and will screen conventionally August 1st during the forthcoming 2013 Asian American International Film Festival.