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flick pick | Mutual Appreciation 2005
Directed + written by: Andrew Bujalski
Starring: Justin Rice, Rachel Clift, Andrew Bujalski
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: quintessentially quasi-adult
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor (watchability): ½/5 

Plot synopsis Twenty-something musician Alan has just left his old band and moved to New York, ready to make a solo career for himself. He’s had some measure of success in the indie scene, enough that this seems like a potentially viable way to make a living; arriving in the city, he’s in desperate need of a drummer for his upcoming gig at week’s end. An interview with a cute college radio DJ named Sara yields both a random hook-up with the DJ herself, and a connection to her drummer brother. This all gets a little complicated when it turns out that Sara seems to see this all as the beginning of an actual relationship; not wanting to lose his much-needed drummer, Alan finds himself in a bit of a conundrum. Meanwhile, his arrival in New York brings him back together with two old friends, Ellie and Lawrence, who happen to be a couple. Grad student Lawrence is pretty busy with his own teaching and work; underground newspaper journalist Ellie, however, has all sorts of ideas for helping Alan make some good contacts in his new city. The more time Alan and Ellie spend together, however, the more their mutual attraction becomes obvious. Of course, neither one wants to do anything that’ll hurt Lawrence, who seems blissfully ignorant that his best friend is harboring feelings for his girl, and vice versa as well.

Review Full disclosure now: ages ago now, I was in the same small intro filmmaking class as writer-director Andrew Bujalski. This was back when I thought my love of photography, good stories and movies made film seem like a natural fit for my interests. Then I took the class, and realized, that, wow, I really sorta sucked at this medium. Thus ended any film aspirations I may have once entertained. But I always wondered which, if any, of my far more talented fellow classmates might make an actual career of it. So I almost fell out of my chair when I was reading the New York Times online one afternoon, and came across a rave review for a new low-budget little indie written and directed by this semi-familiar name from my college days. Even more exciting was actually seeing Mutual Appreciation, and finding myself thoroughly in love with it. With its grainy black-and-white look and awkward-funny dialogue, this might have turned into a pretentious faux-arty flick about over-privileged, upper middle-class recent college grads. But the whole feel of Mutual Appreciation is so terrifically natural and unforced, and there’s a pervading and uniquely oddball humor that keeps the characters from ever getting too annoyingly self-involved in their problems. The semi-petty angst over relationships and career options comes across as genuine; Bujalski doesn’t make out his characters’ issues to be monumentally important, even as he very much respects them as being real to the individuals themselves. The characters look like people you know; they have conversations that sound exactly like ones you’ve shared with your own friends; they find themselves in odd situations that somehow, despite their specificity, seem eerily reminiscent of events from your own personal past. Some folks might complain that the pacing of events is sometimes a little slow; there’s a lot of talk and mostly small, quiet actions. Which is to say, it’s a lot like real life for your average quasi-adult. It’s all presented in so subtle and understated a manner, in fact, that when the movie does finally reach its conclusion, you’re a little surprised by how much it’s affected you. Mutual Appreciation ends up offering some fresh and pretty interesting insights into love, friendship and the awkwardness of the twenty-something years.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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