Fantastic Fest ’12: Besties – Review



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Being special friends can be killer

Adolescence is a troubling time for a girl, particular a high school freshman that is ignored by boys and fellow classmates, save for a single friend. In Rebecca Perry Cutter’s Besties, Sandy (Olivia Crocicchia) is a wallflower without any perks, that is until a confluence of events sees her social status rise, and she becomes a “special friend” to Ashley (Madison Riley), a high school senior and the most popular (read: smoking hot) girl in school. She’s also Sandy’s next-door neighbor. “Special” is not to insinuate the two are BFFs but it allows certain liberties, like being able to tell each other everything. And being in Ashley’s social circle sees Sandy interacting with the popular kids at pool parties and such. But it is the freedom to express their innermost thoughts that is of a particular interest to Sandy.

As for that confluence of events that brought them together it involves them accidentally killing Ashley’s ex-boyfriend, Justin (Christopher Backus). He has returned home after a two-year stretch at Folsom State Prison and wants Ashley back in his life. After blocking his advances, Justin begins to charm Sandy, who is just happy to be noticed for a change. Ashley sees what’s happening and a scuffle unfolds. One thing leads to another, and Justin is down on the kitchen floor after sustaining two hits from a cast iron pan. Rather than call the cops, the two girls devise a plan to dispose of the body. The cover-up aftermath would see the girls become quite close with Ashley maintaining her alpha dog status and Sandy becoming her favorite pet. But Sandy’s newfound social status comes at a hefty price. She has to keep the cover-up a secret.

While the disposal of the body was textbook in its handling – Ashley and/or Sandy must be big CSI fans – it is the things they failed to recognize that nearly costs them. When a crime is committed they say that there are at least fifty things the criminal failed to do that would lead to his eventual apprehension. Though I’m not sure where being special friends falls into committing a murder.

Sandy, now popular and adorable in a Chihuahua-in-a-purse kind of way, is finally accepted and is able to sit at the cool kid’s table. But each passing day becomes hard for her. The deep secret she keeps hidden is close to emotional outburst status. She keeps it hidden as a request to Ashley so that the girl she idolizes (also read: is infatuated with) can have the fashion design career she desires after graduation. Apparently, Ashley never watched Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, or she would know how easy it is to flub those fashion resumes.

Besties doesn’t require acting heavyweights to tell the story – the biggest name attached is Corin Nemic of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose fame – but it offers a great role for Olivia Crocicchia. As a young girl trying to find her identity as a 14-year-old freshman, some will relate to her plight of being neither the most beautiful nor confident in her class. The role is not that much different than her role in 2011’s Terri, but here she is the central character. She is believable in the role and is able to carry the story in spite of its leanness.

Having recently read a high school noir (Megan Abbott’s Dare Me) what really struck me was the character dialogue. The story, also about besties, has a natural quality even in awkward moments. Cutter’s screenplay doesn’t have that authenticity. Teenager speak is a difficult language to master and convey, and it varies from film to film. The usage of “retard,” “that’s so gay,” and “that’s ghetto, right?” for example doesn’t even sound what teenagers would say today. Though this is coming from a writer that’s thirteen years removed from high school. Now I’m not expecting these actors to be transplants from Dawson’s Creek, but the exchanges between characters will have audiences laughing for all the wrong reasons.

Notwithstanding the film’s low production values, which were partly funded through a kickstarter campaign, the film’s saving grace is Crocicchia’s performance. And for the perverts out there: a very legal Madison Riley showing off her assets. But if you’ve seen Grown Ups then you’ve already seen that side of her (she played one of Rob Schneider’s hot daughters).

Besties is a film about adolescence that happens to involve murder. It lacks the humor and pathos of other memorable teen films. Films that are better written and more entertaining. If anything, Besties teaches us that whenever a writer is stuck writing a teen drama that involves murdering an ex-boyfriend, he or she should pause then ask one question “What would John Hughes and Jim Thompson do in this situation?”

Director: Rebecca Perry Cutter
Writer: Rebecca Perry Cutter
Notable Cast: Olivia Crocicchia, Madison Riley, Corin Nemec

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