C. Robert Cargill September 13, 2010
There is nothing so unappreciated as the role of the best friend in a romantic comedy. More often than not, the characters serve the purpose of exposition or to make our hero or heroine look better by comparison. Most of the time these characters are unwitting stereotypes in way over their heads, left wide-eyed and clueless as they fawn over the film’s star. But sometimes, just sometimes, you find someone who makes that role special. Here are my favorites.
Bruno Kirby/Carrie Fisher – When Harry Met Sally
There are quite a few reasons why this film is one of the best romantic comedies ever made, and two of those reasons are Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher. Most rom-com best friends are simply sounding boards for our protagonists to just bounce their inner monologues off — and honestly, these two are no different. But this is what happens when you put truly talented veterans in the roles and let them own every moment they are given. A classy pair of cinematic best friends that become a great onscreen couple in their own right.
Jack Black/Todd Louiso – High Fidelity
Unlike most rom-com best friends, this protagonist (played by John Cusack) doesn’t really care all that much for his “best friends,” but much like real life, they are the unlikely pair who end up being the closest to him, whether he likes it or not. Jack Black has never been Jack Black-ier than he is here, and Todd Louiso steals back every scene from Black with his understated, meek-geek performance. Together, the two make for a memorable pair that allow Cusack to perform at his best and serve as the heart of most of the film.
Rupert Everett – My Best Friend’s Wedding
Make no mistake, Everett is THE epitome of the rom-com gay best friend. While the film isn’t exactly a beloved classic and has a number of issues, none of them stem from Everett, who is so charming and lovable that his mere presence in Julia Roberts‘ life makes you just fine with the fact that she doesn’t end up with the guy of her dreams. He is her reward, and what a satisfying reward that is. Their final scenes together are so touching that they almost constitute a kind of romance all their own. (But not really — which is the beauty of their execution.)
Rhys Ifans – Notting Hill
Ifans is hands-down one of the best Felix Unger-esque slovenly roommates in cinema history. His wild antics, complete lack of social graces, and well-delivered comic gems prove to be a perfect foil to Hugh Grant‘s uptight, nervous bookseller — a role that earned him almost every onscreen role he’s gotten since. Easily the funniest of the best friends on this list.
Lauren Ambrose – Can’t Hardly Wait
More often than not, the purpose of a best friend in a romantic comedy is to highlight what makes our protagonist special rather than pointing out their flaws. They exist to look pathetic, often admiring their BFF for their success, looks, or love life. But not so in Can’t Hardly Wait. Instead, Lauren Ambrose’s Denise Flemming serves to illustrate just how pathetic and socially awkward her best friend, Ethan Embry, is. In this way we become even more endeared to our hero, as we get to see a pair that really do come across as lifelong friends.
Brittany Murphy – Clueless
Very rarely in romantic comedies do the best friends get a chance to take an interesting part in the story without stealing the story away from the film’s star. Murphy was never funnier or more charming than she was here. She would try many times to hit the same comedic beats in other films, but would sadly never quite recapture the magic in this film.
Sarah Paulson/David Hyde Pierce – Down With Love
Now these two, the best friends in the sadly overlooked 2003 satirical gem Down With Love, aren’t so much the greatest rom-com best friends as they are the single greatest parody of rom-com best friends ever. These two play by every cliché in the book, constantly laying out exposition and character facts as casually as if they were clothes for a business trip. Paulson plays the uptight best friend who serves the role of more of an accessory than anything else, and Pierce plays the pivotal Tony Randall role, always ready to mug for the camera when a reaction shot is needed.
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