‘Professional Friend’ Is Surprising in the Best Possible Way
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“Professional Friend” borrows a lot from films like “Rushmore” and “Wristcutters” (albeit not as dark as the latter). That’s not to say that this web series is unoriginal. In fact, “Professional Friend” does something that few shows — TV or otherwise — are able to do anymore: surprise.
When I first came across “Professional Friend,” it seemed like the show couldn’t simply be about its namesake. The idea of someone being a friend-for-hire just didn’t seem like a solid enough anchor to hang a series. Yes, there would be a few jokes about the kind of weirdos who would pay to have friends (there are), but beyond that, how could one high concept be enough to support an entire series? As it turns out, “Professional Friend” is about a young, jobless man hiring himself out as a friend for a day, but it’s also about much more than that.
I say that this series shares a Wes Anderson-like vision in the best possible way. As Anderson’s films are soaked in the bittersweet moments of day-to-day life, “Professional Friend” tows the line between the heartwrenching and the heartfelt. The concept of hiring a friend on its surface is arguably funny, but on a deeper level it speaks to something much more melancholy. And where this series could get bogged down in this cycle of sad people paying for friends — an equally sad action — writer and creator Eric Bilitch chooses to highlight the beautiful aspects of these often misunderstood loners.
“Professional Friend” also benefits from an excellent cast. The titular professional friend, Larry (Jonathan Biver), plays a lovable semi-adult who has few professional skills other than his ability to be really likeable. The show excels, in part, because Larry is so charismatic on screen. He’s the the type of character that makes you want to be a better person and see the beauty in life as he seems to. It’s not easy to write a character that magnetic, and it’s even harder for someone to act it out. Fortunately, “Professional Friend” nails it and the show is endlessly watchable because of it.
I was surprised that I enjoyed “Professional Friend” as much as I did. Even more surprising is the level of complexity the cast and crew of this series is able to infuse into 13-minute episodes. This is a series that is funny and smart. But most importantly, “Professional Friend” strives to deliver something better than cheap laughs and instead gives viewers a warm, heartfelt comedy.