Best Man Down is another one of those movies that worked quite well for me not knowing anything about it beforehand, but if you're reading this review you probably do want to know a bit about it. It starts out conventionally enough, with Scott (Justin Long) and Kristin (Jess Weixler) celebrating their wedding at a hotel in Phoenix. Scott's best friend Lawrence (Tyler Labine), better known as "Lumpy", is their best man, and is your typical movie obnoxious drunk fat guy at the reception, much to Kristin's embarrassment. Scott sticks up for him but suggests he retire to his room as he's had more than enough to drink, so he does and passes out while rocking out to Ratt's 1984 "Round and Round" video on the TV- and we know he must be really plastered as he's happily doing so with the picture stretched on the 16x9 screen! He later wakes up in the middle of the night, wanders outside the building and drops dead.
Before we see what happens next however, the movie cuts to a home in the town of Lutsen, Minnesota and we're introduced to 15-year old Ramsey (Addison Timlin), her mother Jaime (Frances O'Connor) and her druggie boyfriend Winston (Evan Jones). It isn't clear what they have to do with anything at first, but it all falls into place later. Going back to Phoenix, Lumpy's dead body has been discovered and Scott is putting the honeymoon plans on hold to take care of his affairs, which Kristin isn't too happy about. "Who postpones a funeral??" Scott asks her- besides, it's the right thing to do considering Lumpy gave him the money for their honeymoon trip to Mexico, so he feels obligated now to use that to pay for the body's transportation back to Minneapolis and subsequent funeral. It's clear from this point that their marriage might be turning dysfunctional- Kristin never really liked Lumpy to begin with, though he was a dear friend to Scott and he asserts that she just never really "got" him. The movie feels mostly like a black comedy at this point, as these once-happy newlyweds are now in a state of chaos and having their weaknesses start showing through after their best man dies after their wedding. Through this the movie continues to cut back to Ramsey up in Lutsen, for what seems to be no apparent reason (but makes much more sense with repeat viewings), until her name is one of the few found on Lumpy's cell phone. None of his other acquaintances know who she is, and the phone number is traced to Lutsen but isn't being answered, so Kristen suggests that they make the trip there and track her down so she can be told the bad news.
From here we get a lengthy flashback which shows just what connection Ramsey has to Lumpy, and find out that he's shared some information with her that he hadn't told anybody else. The movie becomes much more sentimental at this point, with a message that people often aren't what they may appear to be- in Lumpy's case, he was much more than the drunken lout that many only knew him as.
Shot with Arri Alexa digital cameras but retaining a film-like look in a 2.35 ratio, the picture is nicely detailed, with what seems to be every fiber on the actors' clothing visible along with some not-so-nice details like the chipping paint on a house's front door. Most of the color is muted intentionally, likely to keep with the atmosphere of winter in the mid-west and the rather grim occasion. I noticed a small amount of gradient banding in some darker scenes and in fades to black.
Audio is a 5.1 mix in DTS-HD Master Audio, and works nicely for this type of movie. The soundstage is fairly straightforward with a bit of music and ambient sounds in the surround channels.
Subtitles for hard-of-hearing are provided as well as French and Spanish subtitles.
Five minutes of outtakes are included (with profanity bleeped), then there are short interview segments with director Ted Koland and actor Justin Long who give a bit of insight on the movie. A short promo piece is also included along with the movie's trailer, as well as trailers for Mr. Nobody, The Last Days on Mars, Bad Milo and How I Live Now, with a promo for the AXS TV channel. The menu has a BD-Live link which only led to a message saying "Check back for updates," and the disc allows resumption of the movie if stopped during playback as well as bookmarks (which I used to bookmark one moment where a boom mike's reflection can be seen. Yes, I always bookmark technical mistakes in movies.)
Best Man Down might appear erratic to some the way it shifts from black comedy to sentimentality, but for me this worked rather well- after all, real life often does this also. It's always nice also when cities that don't get a lot of love on film are featured, in this case Minneapolis. All of the cast does a great job here, and Addison Timlin is definitely someone I'll keep watching for in the future. Recommended.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.