Bert (Matt Oberg) is many things, a bestselling author, an introverted, sexually-repressed egomaniac and, most recently, a cuckold. Which is where Arnie (Stephen Schneider) comes in. A vulgar, philandering market analyst, Arnie has been having an affair with Bert’s wife, Linda (Brandi Nicole Wilson). The two meet when a case of mistaken identity (thanks to Linda’s lies) leads to Bert accidentally confronting Arnie. They separate, none too impressed with the other
Later, Arnie is having an interesting time at work, passed over for a promotion that lands in the hands of Sabrina (Anna Chlumsky), a woman who initially Arnie dislikes but changes his opinion on when she winds up being everything he wants in a woman: sex, without strings attached. Except he winds up really digging her, and seeing her reading one of Bert’s books, tries to impress her by reconnecting with Bert.
Of course, Bert’s divorced now, and suffering through the day-to-day grind of teaching a course on his books at a university. The last thing he wants to do is help Arnie out with anything, but upon meeting Sabrina, Bert finds her to be just as enticing as Arnie does. Of course, Sabrina’s feelings, for both Arnie and Bert, aren’t really working out as either of them would like.
Jeff Kaplan’s Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship does one thing that is pretty damn essential for a comedy: it’s funny. Sometimes awkward funny, such as watching Bert fumble through his interactions with practically anyone, and sometimes brutally humorous, such as any time Arnie opens his jackass mouth. Either way, it delivers in a way that should at least get a couple smiles out of you.
And that’s not always easy to do, but the actors are great at holding up their ends of the film. Matt Oberg’s Bert is like a nerdy, low energy yet surprisingly intellectually full of himself Andy Dick. Stephen Schneider’s Arnie is that guy who says and does the wrong thing at almost every turn, and yet somehow is ridiculously successful at what he does. Chlumsky’s Sabrina ties it altogether, delivering a believable performance as a woman who wants the wanton adventures with Arnie but also appreciates the mental stimulation of Bert. Likewise, you understand why both men would be smitten with her.
Beyond the performances, the film also has a professional sheen to it, with every aspect looking and sounding good… but not too good. It stays short of having that almost whimsical and fake mainstream comedy feel. It’s got some indie to it, even though it’d be hard to tell from the way it looks or sounds.
In the end, though, it comes back to whether the comedy is funny, and I think Bert and Arnie’s Guide to Friendship is. I don’t know that it needed the connecting narrative device of Bert and Arnie being interviewed about their lives and relationship, but it at least, for a device that could be obnoxious or distracting, actually works with the tone and mood of the piece.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.