It's a dirty non-secret that Hollywood is a boys' club, and it has always been that way. Women may get work as actresses, but unless you're Melissa McCarthy, studio executives generally want nothing to do with you if you aren't the hottest, youngest trick on the block. As a result, we have an awful reality like the fact that only four women in the history of the Oscars have been nominated for Best Director, with Kathryn Bigelow being the sole winner (Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, and Lina Wertmüller being the others). America is no country for middle-aged-to-old women, and so they have to work outside the studio system.
It's a crying shame, because if someone had given BFFs a bit more money, then this could have been a damn near great movie. As it stands, this film has many unfortunate hallmarks of a low budget: a shakily talented filmmaker, sketchy production values, and strange editorial choices. The film was directed by Andrew Putschoegl, a gentleman whose previous credits include many shorts and a teen comedy called Window Theory ("He's got a formula, but hasn't got a clue.") He brings very little to the movie visually, causing it to appear more like something you'd find on Lifetime. There are also some weird moments in which comedy is shoe-horned into an otherwise dramatically effective scene, a decision that feels like the ill-advised choice by someone who has also made a film called Law and Order, Lesbian Intent: The Musical!.
But the script, co-written by the lead actresses Tara Karsian and Andrea Grano, is a gem. It concerns the best friendship between two middle-aged women named Kat (Karsian) and Samantha (Grano). Kat receives a birthday gift for a couple's retreat from her mother (played by veteran actress Pat Carroll, who is Karsian's real mother) to go on with her boyfriend whom, unbeknownst to everyone but Samantha, Kat has recently dumped. Kat and Samantha decide to go together to relax and laugh at the obviously desperate other couples on the trip, posing as lesbian lovers all the while. Once they get there and start going along with the couple's exercises, Kat and Samantha start to question whether their ruse is actually fake after all.
On paper, this movie shouldn't work, because years of Hollywood's straight people-only agenda has shown that non-heterosexuals will either be portrayed as clowns or killed for their transgressions. Since BFFs isn't an 1980s slasher film, I was prepared to see the former happen. I spent the entire runtime waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the movie to laugh at these characters, but it never happens. And that, I believe, can be attributed both to the strength of the screenplay as well as the conviction of the lead actresses, whom I have to believe must be good friends (if not lovers) in real life to make this all seem real. Karsian and Grano have an easy, lived-in chemistry with one another that makes the idea of them being best friends who could possibly be together one that is easy to believe.
They are also bolstered by a wonderful supporting cast of character actors, including Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack), Sigrid Thornton, and Richard Moll. They all play the other couples, which include elderly people, a gay couple, and other men and women who are having varying degrees of success in both their relationship and the retreat's ability to patch things up for them (one couple explodes in anger and resentment that forces them to leave). Like Kat and Samantha, we are led to believe that this retreat will be silly and should not be taken seriously (see the blistering Couples Retreat for proof), but each of the other couples is given time to demonstrate their own difficulties, which provides depth and complexity to the relationship between the protagonists. It is a surprising touch, especially given that the script was penned by its leads, something that could have otherwise resulted in a vanity project.
I was surprised by how invested in the characters I became, especially since this film has had no marketing and practically no one has seen it—only 37 votes have gone through on IMDb for its rating. But you should seek out BFFs, because it is further evidence that if more women were given the chance to do some real work of their own—beyond writing and directed the next Katherine Heigl abomination—the cinematic world would a brighter, more interesting one.