Believably imperfect characters, troubled familial situations and a mutual friend with lots of secrets punctuate Best Man Down, writer-director Ted Koland’s feature film debut that centers on an annoying best man who suddenly dies at a wedding. The wedding couple, Scott and Kristen (Justin Long, Jess Weixler), are trying desperately to just make it through their wedding and reception, which is in constant peril of exploding from best man, Lumpy’s (Tyler Labine) shenanigans, which include drinking way too much, throwing up everywhere and generally making a nuisance of himself. After Scott finally gets him to bed, Lumpy has an accident, bloodies his head and stumbles out into the desert night in an alcohol fueled haze and dies.
In addition to the grief of losing his friend, the responsibility of organizing his funeral falls to Scott, who asserts that he and Kristen have to return to Minneapolis to organize the funeral rather than depart on their honeymoon. This doesn’t sit well with Kristen, due to the final services for Lumpy, whom she barely tolerated at best. Also, there are secrets that Scott and Kristen are both keeping from each other. Add in that Kristen’s opinionated and annoying as shit mother (Shelley Long, keeping her SAG card current) frequently chimes in on anything and everything, and their marriage isn’t off to the best of starts.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old girl back in a small Minnesota town, Ramsey (Addison Timlin), has been trying to get a hold of Lumpy with no success. Ramsey is a loner whose mother (Frances O’Connor) is shacked up with an unemployed druggie douchebag boyfriend, Winston (Evan Jones). Ramsey has no friends at school and with her home life frequently turbulent, her only confidant is a local priest (Michael Landes), who bails her out of various jams because she knows that he’s a closeted gay. But it eventually comes to light that she and Lumpy shared an unusual relationship.
Scott and Kristen try to round up Lumpy’s co-workers and friends for the funeral, while continuing to deal with their own marital problems. But Scott is stunned to learn major things about Lumpy’s life and that Lumpy never told him any of it. Still, he resolves to make the five-hour drive to find Ramsey to let her know about Lumpy’s passing and funeral. Ramsey decides to accompany them back on the drive to Minneapolis for the funeral and more of Lumpy’s secrets are revealed as Ramsey, Kristen and Scott get to know each other, surprising all of them.
What surprises about Best Man Down is that, after some goofball scenes early on where Lumpy looks like something out of a bad Hangover movie at the wedding, and some doses of Shelley Long’s Mother stink up the screen, it looks like the film is going to be some sort of lame comedy. But in actuality, it’s quite somber, without tumbling over the cliff into the maudlin. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t give much of a rip about neither Scott nor Kristen. They both deserved to dump each other and barely a bit of sympathy for Scott about Lumpy was all I could muster. All their immediate family stuff (i.e. the in-laws) could have been lost on the editing room floor…or as the case may be, the computer’s recycle bin.
The two most interesting characters were Ramsey and Lumpy, and the film would have benefited from more of their interactions. Director Ted Koland wrote this, but if I didn’t know better, it looks as though he had two different ideas for two films about a funeral and butted them together to make Best Man Down. Generally the film is good, but it’s really Addison Timlin’s Ramsey stuff that I ended up caring about. You could take the entire other half of the movie, the wedding / marriage / family stuff and do something else with it.
Best Man Down is available now on iTunes an On Demand now and opens in theatres on November 8.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars