Weddings can make people do crazy things. The bride and groom have so much to worry about in the lead up to and during their special day that they can often turn to their best man and maid of honor, collectively known as “the best people,” to offer assistance, run errands, and to rely on for emotional support. But what happens when the best people are, in fact, the worst people; people who would do anything to stop the wedding and break up the relationship of the betrothed? That is the basis of the new comedy, The Best People, which was a competition film at the recently wrapped 2018 Phoenix Film Festival, and played to very receptive audiences.
The Best People is the story of Anna (Anna Lieberman) and Claire (Claire Donald), sisters coming out of the tragic loss of their mother. Claire has come through the loss stronger, finding love with Johnny (Johnny Cannizzaro), but Anna is a mess. She has diagnosed mental issues and a drinking problem, and just cannot grasp how Claire can move on so fast and so seamlessly. She finds an unlikely partner in Johnny’s best friend and roommate, Art (Art Napiontek), a selfish, binge drinking “bro” who believes that he’s god’s gift to the female sex, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Anna and Art are asked to the be the bests for Claire and Johnny, and the unconventional pair begin a series of schemes to break the love birds apart.
The Best People features some incredible funny scenes as Anna and Art pull out all the stops to wreck the engagement. One particular scene involves a “vaginal yoga” class that is equal parts hilarious and disturbing. The screenplay by Selina Ringel hits the right balance of bawdy comedy and heartfelt emotion, as her characters all go through the gamut of insanity brought on by the pending wedding. As the story moves forward, Anna’s deep issues come to light and she’s forced to face them, which gives her emotional journey a solid arc. Lieberman shines in the role, playing the broken millennial scared of the change that is coming, while still being strong willed in other areas, and the rock for her little sister when she needs it most.
Art, on the other hand, remains static throughout the film, and gets an unearned character redemption late in the third act. Napiontek is solid as the jerk of The Best People, which made me question what kind of person he is in real life, since Ringel and director Dan Levy Dagerman named the film characters after the real life actors. Is this guy a total ass in the real world? The fact that I even wonder that speaks for his performance in the role. Both leads carry the film with seasoned acuity, and the project would have fallen apart if either of them stumbled. Luckily for audiences, they held their own and the end result is satisfying.
The Best People has some incredibly funny moments peppered between some dramatic situations and some heavy emotional baggage, and it’s not easy to make all of that work in feature length film. The cast and crew delivers where it counts, and in the end, The Best People serves as a fun, somewhat twisted look into a relationship from those on the outside. As the world shifts into the “wedding season” for 2018, this is one film to watch for a different perspective on how weddings come together and what the bride and groom sometimes have to deal from their own best people.
The Best People will next compete for a coveted Remi Award at the 51st WorldFest Houston, and will play at other festivals across America in the coming months. I highly recommend you check it out. Shoreline Entertainment has also picked up the film, so keep your eyes open for wider distribution in the near future.
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