Review: Best Man Down
PLOT: After the untimely death of their best man, a newlywed couple must cancel their plans for a honeymoon in order to plan for a funeral. While trying to contact those who knew their friend best, they discover a secret relationship he shared with a teenage girl.
For the first half of the seriocomic feature film BEST MAN DOWN, it is nearly impossible to connect with any of the players involved. As newlywed couple Scott and Kristin, both Justin Long and Jess Weixler make for an awkwardly paired couple. The two bicker and make-up yet they seem to lack any chemistry aside from possibly a brother to a sister. On their wedding night, his best man/best friend Lumpy (Tyler Labine) unexpectedly dies leaving the couple to deal with his funeral and put their honeymoon plans on hold. The tragic events appear to be more of an annoyance set up to create a story around as opposed to a real sense of drama. Perhaps it is the sometimes cold relationship between Weixler and Long that fail to inject life into their relationship dilemma.
The real heart of the film lies with a teenage girl named Ramsey (Addison Timlin). When Scott and Kristin discover her number on Lumpys cellphone, they decide to find out more about her - learning more about Scotts old friend as well. Lonely and in a less than stellar home environment, Ramsey is a smart girl who has had to fend for herself thanks to a drug abusing mother (Frances OConnor) and her violent boyfriend (Evan Jones). It is Timlins performance that brings life to Lumpys story as his character is revealed through her memories. The idea that those who knew him the longest seemed to know very little about the man is an intriguing one.
Written and directed by Ted Koland, the story works best when its focus remains on Ramsey and Lumpy. The two characters are far more complex than the mismatched newlyweds or the other family members involved including Cheers alum Shelley Long and the very talented OConnor. Whether we are seeing this strangely appealing relationship grow during a flashback, or her dealing with the circumstances of his death, these wonderful moments give life to what is oftentimes an unbalanced mix of humor and heart. Whenever it shifts to Scott and Kristin, there is a strong disconnect as they typically fall into banal arguments about the deceased or losing a job.
At one point we are introduced to a priest (played by Michael Landes) with a secret life. The character is one of the very few positive role models in the teenagers life. Landes is good here yet he is wasted with very little to do, aside from helping move the plot forward to a satisfying conclusion. It is hard to find a real justification for neither him nor his fatherly treatment of Ramsey. It would have been nice to see the two stories more aptly told giving him a better reason to exist in her world.
It is difficult to not respect BEST MAN DOWN for its ideas that love is far more than just sex or power or control. A defining moment comes late in the film at the funeral when Ramsey and everything she stands for is explained in an impressively emotional scene. This would have been a much more powerful piece if only this warm and heartfelt scene had been expanded on. Instead the audience is offered a few quick spurts of heart packaged in between a story lacking a strong emotional core. While it is difficult to fully connect to BEST MAN DOWN, there is something really special in Timlins touching performance, which was punctuated by the scenes with her and the "best man" in question, which deserved much more exploration and screen time.