Monday, January 16, 2012

Best Friends

Directed by Noel Nesseck.
1975. Rated R, 83 minutes.
Richard Hatch
Doug Chapin
Susanne Benton
Anne Noland

Pat (Chapin) has just gotten out of the military. He’s reunited with his best friend Jesse (Hatch). They immediately buy a Winnebago and hit the road on a cross-country trip their girlfriends in tow. Things are all hunky dory at first. When it becomes clear Jesse is ready to settle down and marry Kathy (Benton) Pat has such a hissy fit it terrorizes the others, including his own girl Jo Ella (Noland). We spend the rest of the movie watching Pat be a class A jerk. By the way, the Native Americans on the poster shown above have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

Honestly, the crap Pat pulls is only mildly interesting. What keeps things somewhat fascinating is the unintentional humore brought on by mostly bad acting and a good deal of bad writing. Even within that writing there are a few possible subtexts that may keep us somewhat involved. The first is the easiest to see. Pat’s deathly afraid of growing up. The second is a little less implied but certainly plausible given the era in which Best Friends was made. To oversimplify: going through the Vietnam War has made him a psycho. They don’t really make any allusions to the war, but I’m putting two and two together here.

There is one other possible subtext. This might be a serious reach on my part, but it would also seem that Pat is a latent homosexual. Watching him do anything he can think of to get Jesse to ditch his girl just so the two fo them can hit the open road together has a distinct Little Caesar feel. Obviously, this is nowhere near as good as the gangster movie classic but it is an intriguing similarity. Much like Rico seems to be in love with Joe in that film so does Pat appear to be with Jesse. Nothing ever happens with this making it seem more like an unintended consequence of a low quality script than any type of actual effort.

Another interesting similarity is with a pop song that was recorded six years after BF was released. It’s in the way Pat’s actions are explained away. I’ll just say google the lyrics to the Rick Springfield classic “Jessie’s Girl” and leave it at that. After seeing this movie it looks to be impossible that it didn’t inspire this song. For the record, Springfield has maintained that he wrote the song based on an experience he had in high school. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

Some viewers will get another minor jolt very early in the movie. Richard Hatch is the guy that plays Jesse. He’s recognizable because he went on the bigger and better things. Most notably, he would play Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica television series and Tom Zarek years later in the remake. Strange that the only person in the cast to have a viable acting career plays second fiddle here.

As a whole BF is just bad. It feels much more like a made-for-TV melodrama than a feature except for the nudity. We’re never completely bored with it, but we’re not enamored with it like we are some of our favorite cult movies, either. It loiters in purgatory, not so bad it’s awesome but just interesting enough to watch all the way through.

MY SCORE: 4/10

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