“Best Man Down” starts with an obnoxious, drunk groomsman.
That night, he dies in a drunken run-in with a cactus, and newlyweds Scott (Justin Long) and Kristin (Jess Weixler) postpone their honeymoon for funeral duty. To Kristin’s chagrin, they head on a scavenger hunt through Minnesota to deliver the bad news to the mysterious friend in Lumpy’s cellphone named Ramsey.
The two uncover a whole bunch of info that Scott didn’t know: Lumpy withdrew from law school on a whim and he was fired from a diner for embezzlement.
Sounds like a PG episode of “Law and Order” — following a dead man’s life — but this works for “Best Man Down” because I was dying to know what Lumpy was doing with a teen.
Said teenager is Ramsey, a 15-year-old with a sketchy home life: Her mom’s into a phone psychics and mom’s gun-toting boyfriend is into meth. It’s a ticking time bomb at Ramsey’s house, and divorce seems inevitable for the newlyweds. But, writer/director Tom Koland mixes the comedy with the heavy pretty on par.
In one scene, Kristin and Scott barge in on Lumpy’s former employer, and he’s playing with himself. They hear about Lumpy’s huge theft, and feelings are pretty low. Cue an almost-handshake and a “don’t touch it joke,” but I was grateful for the light reprieve.
In another scene, Ramsey’s high school English teacher asks a student what she thinks of “Ethan Frome.”
“I didn’t read it,” the student says apathetically. (I rewound this one to laugh again.)
I’ve seen directors struggle with flowing between drama and comedy while swapping between storylines, but director Koland makes it work.
Justin Long does a stellar job with the drama. Near the end, he sheds some tears that made my eyes perspire. But the best performance is Addison Timlin as Ramsey. When she hears about Lumpy’s death, her nonchalant expression was light and slight. So good, she had me fooled. When she’s finally left alone, her exterior doesn’t melt as much as it crumbles slightly, bit by bit. I was way impressed.
Jess Weixler is just alright as Kristin. Switching from easily annoying to enlightened felt like a rocky transition for her, but it didn’t distract from the film.
Props to director Koland and the cinematography. Overall, great camera placement and Lumpy’s death scene made me want to vom from the shaky, real-to-life view of a violent hangover.
And what really impressed me was the beautifully shot cinematography of Minneapolis. Ramsey is walking the street, and shots of the city are panoramic and vivid, which is a sweet contrast to dense, tight-shots in Ramsey’s rural town. She looks like she could be swallowed up in this scene — by the city and her solitude. Loved it.
“Best Man Down” was released at the Twin Cities Film Festival in 2012, and Minnesota is heavily sprinkled in the dialogue along with a shot of the Blue Ox Motel.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll crush on Taylor Labine.
It’s worth a watch.
Available: Amazon Prime, Netflix Instant.
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