22 December 2009 | IcyRoses
I usually like films that focus on a few characters rather then many or even a lot. And "Best Friends" focuses exclusively on 4 characters.
Jessie (Richard Hatch) and Pat (Doug Chapin) have been friends since perhaps childhood. And they've done everything together. In the beginning we get a montage of pictures showing they've been through everything to the prom to the war. And this is how the movie gets it's edge. Jessie came home from Vietnam before Pat did, and it's pretty obvious the war has affected Pat, not Jessie. But, anyways, Jessie and his girlfriend Kathy (Susanne Benton) decide to drive to California to meet Pat when he gets off the airplane. See the thing is they want to take a cross country trip/vacation, and along comes Pat's estranged girlfriend Jo Ella (Ann Noland).
The movie starts off perfectly normal, when everyone see's each other again, it seems like this is going to be a fun road movie. But, soon tension starts to amount. Kathy is clingy to Jessie, and Pat is jealous. Plus, Kathy and Jessie has a much better, loving relationship, then Pat and Jo Ella. Pat is stilted and wants to enjoy life, Jo Ella wants to settle down and be married.
Things get even more heated when Jo Ella makes a fool out of herself by taking her top off at an Indian bar and a fight emerges with the group. Pat wants to protect Jessie (who was hit) but Kathy won't let him. It seems like Pat is becoming more and more obsessed with getting Kathy completely out of the picture and having Jessie to himself.
Then, the film takes a hard left turn. Pat sits Jo Ella down and tells her he has no intention on marrying her. Her life is immediately shattered. He then lies to her and tells her Jessie has been interested in her all this time and she should try to sleep with him. And then another turn comes when Pat sees Kathy alone and tells her Jessie would be a horrible husband and would probably cheat on her.
Jessie and Jo Ella sleep together, Pat tries to rape Kathy, and Jessie beats the holy hell out of Pat. This sets up the last half of the picture where Pat and Jessie try to regain their friendship, through what else, trying to find younger girls to have sex with.
In an ultimate turn of events in the movie (which I won't reveal for you loyal readers out there who will go see this), each one of the four's life are effected by the horrible tragedy that occurs at the end. It's a moment full of empathy, regret, and sadness. Pat ends the picture by saying "We've been together for so long.....we can have it all....." "Best Friends" was mismarketed as a grindhouse/drive-in film in 1974, so the company that released it decided to release it in theaters in early 1975, and I'm sure if it had the proper advertisement and some Academy members actually took the time to see it, it would have got some kind of Academy recognition.
The part of "Best Friends" that keeps coming up is, Ann Noland. She easily gives one of my favorite performances of all time as Jo Ella.
Ann Noland's Jo Ella is multi-layered. She is seemingly happy and carefree, yet she worries about her future nearly every day. She stays "Best Friends" most interesting character. The scene right before her and Jessie have sex where she throws leaves on him and seems playful, then starts crying and says "We're not getting married..." She is heartbreaking! For it's mellow and tense atmosphere, hippie soundtrack, and surprisingly great acting, including Ann Noland's shattering Jo Ella, makes "Best Friends" one of my favorite movies!