Don't be taken in because the premise of this film is a good one. It is, but that, does not a good film, make.
Comedies require a well-honed script and masterful direction. Sadly, this poorly executed film has neither. Leconte, a good director in other genres, does not deliver in his comedic farces (Les Bronzes series being another example).
The comedic timing is terrible. Some jokes are telegraphed. Some are re-hashed from other movies. Others just sit there as if they were giving you time to laugh. The plot has messy subplots (the allergic daughter, the lesbian co-owner) and just does not develop or envelope the viewer. It isn't funny and it isn't believable for a second.
Compare this to any comedy by Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot, A Foreign Afair, etc.) or by Leconte's compatriot, Francis Veber, a true GENIUS at French comedy (Le Diner de Cons, Le Placard, Les Comperes, La Chevre, La Grande Blonde, etc.) and you'll see the difference in their tight scripts, great comedic acting and timing, with each joke leading to the next one.
Watching Mon Meilleur Ami twice would be cruel and unusual punishment, not a good sign for a comedy.
Pretentious. Absurd. Not entertaining. Those are three reasons not to like this movie.
It's like poor quality speakers that go "thump, thump". Sure it catches your attention, but five minutes later you realize that you've got a headache. It plays like a student film (subjective camera angles, accelerated rhythm, etc.) but has no sense of pacing whatsoever, and poor dialog to boot.
This film doesn't keep you guessing at all, and you don't identify for even a minute with ANY of the characters. I think they should have watched Memento a few more times to see how it's done.
I hate to counter the endearing comments this film has received on IMDb, but my wife and I both found this film in a word, "trite". Yes, Reno is a terrific actor and Italy provides wonderful scenery.(Having lived in Italy and France for the past 12 years, we know both first-hand). However, that isn't enough to make this a great film.
The plot has many contrivances, the accents are poor, and the humor is at times too broad to be believable. Of course this is better than your typical TV movie, and if what you want is a little bit of fluffy entertainment, you will find it satisfying enough. But I imagine that films like this are created to fit American stereotypes of what perfect little towns in Italy look like, without embracing anything that rings true.
This film doesn't deserve the attention it is receiving, so my comments will be brief.
"Violence and the media". This theme has been explored before (e.g. Natural Born Killers). "Violence that is shocking because it is devoid of emotion". Hmmm,Truman Capote wrote something called "In Cold Blood" forty years ago and THAT film as well as the real event that inspired it were shocking. (Now more so because it ironically starred one Robert Blake.)
But praising Haneke as a cinema "god"? Give me a break. Haneke's background is in theater and TV, and it shows. This is little more than a one act, one idea play. Sure it plays on our innate curiosity. They aren't going to do that ...oops, I guess they are. But not...oops, wrong again. Character development, movement? Non-existent.
Plot idea: two men wearing surgical gloves enter home and terrorize family. Does family survive? Stay tuned. Moral: Don't let rubber-gloved young men into your house. Sure, you'll watch it just to see how it ends, but please don't tell me that this movie depicts deep philosophical questions about media or morality any more than a video game does.
As for terror, Haneke has just taken a lesson from Hitchcock or Lynch (Blue Velvet) who have shown that it often works best in seemingly nice circumstances when it is unexpected and therefore unsettling.
And as for the character winking at us, I think that is just because the joke is on us for having watched. This is a heavy-handed exploitation film that titillates the senses. The '70s brought us black exploitation films and it looks like this decade is bringing us the "media glorifies violence and since we watch, we're guilty too" films. And in case you're wondering, it isn't the violence that I object to but rather the overt manipulation masquerading as social commentary.
After watching about thirty minutes of this film, that's exactly how I felt: already dead.
Despite what other reviewers seem to feel about this film, it isn't noir, it doesn't come across as sincere and it most certainly is not "great stuff".
This is just one of those "add a dash of sex, stir in some drugs, and set it in a good location and you have a film" films. The only things they forgot was the script, tight direction and good acting. There are far better films in this genre.
By the time the guns come out a blazing, you'll wish they hit you as well as everyone else within sight. Anything to be put out of this misery. To avoid.
Great film, vastly underrated by IMDb's rating "adjustments"
Unfortunately, many great films on IMDb such as this one have their scores "adjusted" by IMDb. This is truly a fine and intriguing film by the accomplished director of Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, Night Moves, Mickey One, and The Chase.
If you click in the user rating area, you'll see that the actual median for Four Friends is 7.6. However, IMDb has "adjusted" (dumbed down?) the rating to 6.4.
Per IMDb: "IMDb publishes weighted vote averages rather than raw data averages. Various filters are applied to the raw data in order to eliminate and reduce attempts at 'vote stuffing' by individuals more interested in changing the current rating of a movie than giving their true opinion of it....The exact methods we use will not be disclosed. This should ensure that the policy remains effective." In other words, we won't disclose our methods, so you can't question how we arrived at the score! What a shame to see fine thought-provoking films like Four Friends fare no better than lame formulaic comedies due to IMDb's "filters".