By Chaz Lipp
Rebecca Perry Cutter, best known as a writer and story editor for TV’s The Mentalist, makes her feature film debut with Besties. Though it’s being marketed as a thriller, this is more of a lukewarm drama about a friendship between two high school girls. Fourteen-year-old freshman Sandy (Olivia Crocicchia, TV’s Rescue Me) is fixated on a popular senior, Ashley (Madison Riley, Grown Ups). Ashley used to babysit Sandy when she was younger. Now Sandy aspires to be more like Ashley. Not in a maniacal, Single White Female sort of way, as some of the publicity for Besties has suggested. Ashley drinks and parties with boys, so the blossoming Sandy simply yearns for a taste of what she perceives as wildness.
When Danny (Corin Nemec, Stargate SG-1), Sandy’s dad, has to go out of town, he entrusts the house to his daughter. Encouraged by Ashley, who has agreed to stay over while Danny’s away, Sandy throws a party. Things take a bad turn when the cops bust up the festivities (“writing up” everyone for underage drinking, an offense that never comes back to haunt Sandy, nor Danny – who left his underage girl unsupervised). But the worst is yet to come. One of Ashley’s exes, Justin (Christopher Backus), drops by unexpectedly. Fresh out of prison, the much-older Justin – a sexual predator – fixes his sights on Sandy after Ashley rebuffs his advances.
What happens next is the crux of Besties’ drama and unfortunately it isn’t handled very plausibly. In self-defense against his attempted assault, Sandy and Ashley manage to bludgeon Justin to death. They agree to hide the body and promise to never tell anyone what happened. All of this occurs relatively early on, leaving a lot of dead narrative space. Writer-director Cutter’s attempts to introduce some police procedural elements that are unspeakably weak (especially considering her established background in the genre). The focus is squarely on Ashley and Sandy as characters, but they’re not especially interesting. If realistic dullness was the intent, then mission accomplished. But the witless banalities of the screenplay provide little interest.
In all fairness, both Olivia Crocicchia and Madison Riley turn in solid performances despite having little to dig their teeth into. The former communicates young teenage confusion perfectly, while the latter expertly balances a mix of big sister authority and mean girl doublespeak. It’s actually too bad the whole “murdered ex-boyfriend” angle is part of the story, because Besties works best when it simply focuses on the dynamics of Sandy and Ashley’s uneasy friendship.
Images: Phase 4 Films