Richard Babson (Burt Reynolds) and Paula McCullen (Goldie Hawn) are Hollywood screenwriters who collaborate together on various scripts, as well being romantically involved, living together in the same house and considering one another their best friend. Currently they are doing rewrites for producer Larry Weisman (Ron Silver), who tells him he loves their work and the director loves their work, so there shouldn't be any problem with what they have just finished. This prompts Richard to ponder if he and Paula should perhaps take advantage of this quiet period for a holiday, and when one thing leads to another before they know what is happening they are considering marriage...
Best Friends was, as you may have suspected on watching it, the product of two writers who had gone through the experiences their two lead characters had, Valerie Curtin (who gave herself a cameo) and Barry Levinson. This was at the time they were both specialising in comedy, but by the point this went into production they had actually split up, which must have led to some interesting conversations when this was being made, though at least hopeless romantics could console themselves that they were on friendly enough terms to get the movie completed. The problem appeared to be that their alter egos mirrored their real life issues in that they discovered on being wedded that it more or less ruined their relationship.
The moral being, if you really love somebody whatever you do don't marry them, that will destroy any vestiges of affection and split you up. That’s not quite what occurs to Richard and Paula, but the draw of the Hollywood romantic comedy clichés was difficult to resist and it did end on a hopeful note rather than a scowling damnation of romance in all its forms; that said, you could detect a degree of irony that maybe meant the filmmakers were well aware that how their plot ended up was more movie movie fantasy than anything convincing about what would really happen. And anyway, this was supposed to be a comedy, so you expected something to laugh at, indicating some comedic licence was in operation.
It’s that honeymoon that damns Richard and Paula, as after a lighthearted ceremony summing up the word "impromptu" with amusing results thanks to Richard Libertini doing his funny accent act as the leader of the occasion they decide they have to meet each other's parents for the first time. Here was another aspect that served as a warning to all prospective romantics: stay away from your partner's family, since according to this you would never get on and they could sabotage your union without even meaning to (presumably it was worse if they did mean to, but the outcome was the same). Considering this was intended to be funny, there was an unavoidably dour mood to the actual narrative that grew more overt as the film progressed and that did see the laughs dry up somewhat.
What you had was a romantic comedy that started light and amusing, but when the pressures the central duo had put upon themselves began to make them buckle, the effect was rather like being around friends who started the evening on good terms and as the night drew on they found more and more reasons to argue, which was nobody's idea of a nice time. Reynolds was delivering his performance as a Cary Grant of the eighties, and he was very effective at that, and Hawn dialled down the ditsy while still securing a recognisably comic reading of her character; they complimented one another very well, which was why it was all the more painful that Richard and Carol were on a seemingly unwavering path to splitting up. As the parents, Jessica Tandy got some very un-Jessica Tandy-like lines as Paula's mother, and Audra Lindley was entertainingly overbearing as Richard's mother, with Barnard Hughes and Keenan Wynn as the fathers, one of whom appears to be going senile and the other isn't listening to a word anyone else says. But for all the very decent lines and moments, Best Friends was rather sour. Music by Michel Legrand.