Interpretation of The Best Man ending and protagonist (spoilers)?

On IFDB there’s a bit of discussion about the ending of The Best Man and the interpretation of the protagonist. Some reviewers and commenters saw him as essentially being surrounded by bad friends and, in the ending, moving on to good friends and healing.

I saw him as essentially a ‘nice guy’ who at the end joins a community of like-minded individuals, which I read to be incels or Men’s rights activists.

Tonight, thinking about our difference of opinions, I thought of a new facet:

In my opinion, if every where you go you find toxic people, it’s usually you who are toxic. Our hero experiences anger and annoyance with most people, and even with Laura and Lisa he gets frustrated with their experiences. I think that he’s inherently the one at wrong here. The ending suggests that he didn’t experience a major change in personality, just that he doesn’t get upset as much and hangs out with people like him.

What’s your interpretation?


Yeah I 100% agreed with your take - in my review in the author’s forum, I also said I thought the ending suggested he wound up as an incel or some kind of violent extremist. My read was that while he shifted his obsession away from Laura, his toxic self-regard and sense of entitlement remained intact through the ending.

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I saw some hope for Aiden.

This is true, though this

indicates he finds people toxic far less often than he used to. Now it doesn’t follow from your first statement that “if you don’t find toxic people everywhere you go, you’re not toxic.” Perhaps he finds them less toxic because they kiss up to him. But it’s a sign he’s got something right. Maybe I’m sympathizing with him because I felt there were certain people (authority figures) I had to deal with, longer than I did, because I was convinced I couldn’t do better. (I could. I did.)

I think certainly, up until the wedding, a variation on this holds true: he’s probably less toxic than the people he hangs around with (they’re just cheerier when they snipe,) though he doesn’t realize how toxic they are, and that’s good enough for him. He’s not the nicest guy in the room but (apparently) the least outwardly toxic person. It’s a low standard–and one you can sandbag to achieve. That’s all he has to make him feel special, and maybe after giving the wedding speech, he wants to raise the bar.

personal experience

It’s so difficult to go about this formally, though. Especially in high school there were some people I wanted to tell “I’ve moved on from you” or “I want to move on from you” but telling them point-blank, well, feels self-contradictory.

Certainly when I re-visited my high school after X years away I visited a classroom that was toxic, because of a certain teacher, and in the big picture, I had some thoughts: I’d learned what the teacher claimed they were teaching, I really WAS Interested in Stuff, I’d seen things the right way, and I was frustrated over some lost years and opportunities and lies, but I didn’t need to complain about it. I simply took some pictures with my phone, of things that weren’t there any more. (Yes, there’s one other place I’d like to revisit in order to put things aside. Yes, I visited a bunch of classrooms of teachers I grew to respect more over the years, teachers I wish I’d done better for.)

I don’t know how much I can trust Aiden, because his claims are a bit grandiose, and I think he has a hard ceiling well below “legitimately great guy,” but it might be “not the worst guy to call a great guy, though clearly not the best.” I think his final statement is a bit unclear. He does talk about “people who appreciate me, who know I’m a good guy,” which is self-indulgent, but he does give at least lip service to “we.” There wasn’t much “we” (if any at all) before Laura’s wedding, besides “being on Laura’s team” with the white suit (most weddings, I understand, don’t have teams.)

And the wedding statement is unclear, too. On the one hand he says “I said something that MATTERED” and at face value, without knowing histories, it is. But on the other hand he says “I’ve won.” But won against what? His own inner demons and urges to lash out? Or he’s showed his friends, sneaky-style, he’s better than they are?

If nothing else he may have redirected his narcissism to something slightly better. For someone with flaws as glaring as his, that’s not all bad. When I worked through, I was worried the ending would be: Aiden gets up, makes a speech, and he finally gets people to laugh with him at Laura and John, and he defends how right he was, and how nobody called him a liar, and years down the road, everyone admitted privately to him how right he was. So he exceeded (minimal) expectations for me. At least on the surface.

Given all that, though, he’s not going to come straight out and say he’s a red-piller or incel or what-have-you at the end. People don’t say it like that.

The Best Man had me thinking a lot about Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. How his fantasies aren’t just about showing everyone he’s tough, but also at the end, where he shows he’s cool and ready to move on when he takes the Cybil Shepherd/Betsy character’s fare and just moves on with his life, but did he really?


Yes … that’s a problem! I’ve definitely shifted obsessions. It’s humbling to realize that you’re not over X, you just switched a new habit. Sort of like “I don’t spend too much time playing game Y” turns into “Oh, that’s because I’m playing game Z.”

Certainly there were people I felt obliged to impress. Some actually were good people and some weren’t. Either way it took away from more helpful relationships.


All solid points! I think your interpretation hold true in the real world, so my take is more about the tropes of literary fiction, if that makes sense? Like, my read of the interleaved vignettes with the villagers is that they’re about demonstrating contrast with Aiden, by showing people who are embedded in relationships with others based on caring about them in an unselfish way (the widower who thinks about his daughter, his dog, and his dead wife; the florist who’s affectionately exasperated by her history-obsessed partner; the organist who feels grateful to her predecessor and anxious about the student she’s teaching).

If I was reading this story in a novel, the way that I’d expect to see Aiden’s character change would be through a sequence that either involved him directly interacting with one of those people and having a cathartic change of heart, or one that saw him engaging with a different character but in a way that echoes what’s been demonstrated in those vignettes. Since Aiden’s post-wedding revelation, such as it is, still feels very inward-facing and devoid of connection with any other fully-realized character (at least so far as we see it), it felt like it didn’t pay off this expectation for what a positive moment of self-realization would look like. So basically because the ending doesn’t have any of the literary-fiction tropes that indicate a character has changed for the better, I didn’t think he’d changed for the better, though that conclusion might not hold outside the confines of this particular genre!

EDIT: and just to be clear, I’m not writing this to disagree and say you’re wrong – I just realized my earlier post was a bit conclusory so wanted to spell out my reasoning more fully!


No problem at all! I don’t think I really took into account the scenes with the villagers. I was aware of them, but I think my reasoning was, okay, he seems to lash out a lot less around the florists et al., even though he clearly doesn’t fit in with them.

I think I paid a lot more attention to the wedding scene than the previous ones, because it had those choices I was curious about, so it seems worth it to revisit certain other parts.


I saw Aiden as chillingly narcissistic and delusional, and dangerous, and I didn’t see much change. Like Mike, I saw the end as a shift to something darker with a group of like minds- which could only be bad for someone with a mind like that.

I’ve experienced someone like Aiden, and so being inside his head was fascinating, although upsetting. The thing about that brand of narcissism is that someone else is always to blame. So I’m not sure how toxic the gang of friends actually is, and how much of the toxicity is apparent simply through Aiden’s unreliable and self-involved filter. Laura doesn’t come off well (and neither does anyone else), but is it everyone else who is the toxic problem? Or is it Aiden? I may have to replay to read the end again, because by then I was so afraid of Aiden that I probably wasn’t reading the end fairly.

I thought about Travis Bickle, too.


Good to hear interpretations, I didn’t read so deeply, but that may be my attention span.

I played this game in two halves with a break after the first character switch. My initial read is that it would be either a wistful “dude pines for unavailable friend” or that some wacky scene would happen at the wedding and they would end up together in Hollywood fashion. I figured at first I was living in his head and that’s why he seemed so obsessed, but the character switches show he’s pretty vacuous - at least when dealing with strangers or minor acquaintances.

My read was that he had hoped for that Hollywood rom-com ending but sort of like in Rameses, nothing will actually change and he was imagining and re-imagining a final scene with the bride for the closure he wanted (or didn’t really want). I thought they had great chemistry (but that was through Aiden’s lens) and all that kind of died in the second phone call with her when she’s busy and doesn’t want to do their usual comedy routine. That felt like her separating from him for good.

I likely missed a lot due to my preconceptions based on what I imagined the story would be and came out figuring “Oh this guy is kind of a lost cause socially” and interpreted that he became a writer and this was his story about “the one that got away”. Also that paradox that sometimes best friends cannot be in an intimate relationship and sometimes the “best man” (meaning the one she marries) in her case is someone who might not seem perfect but people have to make their own choices. We never got to know the groom, but again that’s through Aiden’s lens.

I also chose all the “of course I’ll help, I’m your best friend” choices and didn’t role-play him initially as trying to affect change, so that may have colored my interpretation.


I think the device of telling the story through different and largely peripheral viewpoints was so successful for me because it illustrated how shallow Aiden is-- he didn’t see anyone else as a real person with their own inner lives and their own reasons for their choices. They were all just characters in the movie in Aiden’s head, starring Aiden. Whereas the other voices in the game showed depth of real emotional involvement with others, and seeing people as unique individuals.


This is a really interesting discussion, as I had a different take on Aiden.

I viewed him as kind of not-fully-formed yet, personality-wise - someone who still needed to grow up. To me, his unhealthy interest in Laura was evidence of someone who hadn’t yet learned how to form real relationships. The epilogue, in which he’s long since let go of Laura and has found his “tribe,” so to speak, indicated to me that he had finally figured out how to form real relationships with people. I didn’t read anything into the composition of that tribe, other than that they were people who appreciated Aiden for who he is.

I saw Laura as chronically taking advantage of Aiden: She was aware of his obsessive interest in her, yet she continued to use him whenever it suited her - such as asking him to be a last-minute replacement for the best man in her wedding. (If she was at all aware of his feelings for her, and it seems hard to believe that she wasn’t, that was really a jerk move!) In addition, Nick, in his section, says something about how Laura is always using other people. And Aiden continuing to allow Laura to take advantage of him was just more evidence of his lack of understanding of what love is really all about.

I’m not saying my take is “right,” but this was it. I’m curious now to go back and replay The Best Man to try on the different frame that others on this thread have mentioned.


Ugh, that is horrifyingly plausible. I had him give a bland speech about love and steered him away from Laura at every opportunity, but I might have ignored the problems with where he ended up in favor of the ending I wanted to read.


I felt the same way as Spike about Aiden.

That said, I think the groom´s side really is a bit toxic. The binge drinking at the stag party and Colm´s speech are very “lad culture” which would fit with 90s Ireland (the music mentioned by Joe points to the 90s I think).

So regardless of the unreliable narrator it is safe to say that they are not particularly nice men.


I’ve thought about Aiden off and on, and I realized … I’d hung around a few Aidens I felt I needed a permission slip to tune out. It was as if they weren’t overtly aggressive, they just wasted my time I was going to waste anyway, right?

Amanda talks about the narcissism above, and I guess my reaction was “I’ve seen worse.” But “not as bad as he could’ve been” or “not as bad as person X, whom I always wanted to tell to back off but never did” is still not good enough. It did, however, help me finger a few people from my past as not worth thinking about. The sort who are kind enough not to waste any more of my time once they’ve finished dumping their complaints on me. The sort who’d chide me for interrupting if I said “Hey, yeah, I can relate.”

I think when I looked through things again, I realized pretty clearly I couldn’t hack hanging around Aiden every single day (heck, even two days in a row.) I’m reminded of times I’ve heard people telling stories breathlessly, and when they leave, someone else said “Boy, that got a bit tiring after the first one.”

I guess I didn’t realize I was taking a break between Aiden-the-narrator’s stories, but I suspect Aiden-in-real-life would not give his listenees such a break. So maybe I’ve shifted to “leave the door open for Aiden, but don’t wait around for him.”

Aiden has hung around in my thoughts, too. He’s the most memorable character of any game in the Comp for me (although I’ve only played about 15 games other than the ones I beta tested). And I’ll play the game again after the Comp is over and see if the other perspectives here soften my perception of him.

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