Mutual Appreciation


Action / Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 86% · 56 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 72% · 2.5K ratings
IMDb Rating 6.6/10 10 1971 2K

Top cast

995.89 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 48 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by BandSAboutMovies 5 / 10

Mumblecore fare

Andrew Bujalski is the godfather of mumblecore, a subgenre of independent film "characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (sometimes improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s." His film Funny Ha Ha is considered the first film in this form. His second, Mutual Admiration, has just been re-released on blu ray from Arbelos Films, who did such an amazing job with their blu ray of The Last Movie earlier this year.

Alan (Justin Rice of the indie rock band Bishop Allen, whose music is also in this movie) is a musician who has just moved to New York City from Boston after the breakup of his band. He's on the hunt for a drummer when he meets Sara, whose brother ends up being his drummer. Complicating matters is that they make out and he's not sure where his heart is. That's because he's really attracted to Ellie, the girlfriend of his friend Lawrence (Bujalski).

Your enjoyment of this film will depend on how mumblecore makes you feel. Either you're going to find it incredibly honest and real. Or you're going to find it arty and pretentious, filled with people who have lives that have no direction that just blab about them for the entirety of the film's running time. I leave it up to you, dear reader, as to which side of that argument I fall upon.

The new 2k restoration from Arbelos Films is now available on blu ray. It also features a new interview with Bujalski, interjections and observations from the parents of the cast and crew, a short film called Peoples House, trailers and more. There's also two essays on the film by director Damien Chazelle and Okkervil River singer Will Sheff that both shine plenty of light on why this film is so essential. They aren't throwaways - they actually enhanced my viewing of Mutual Appreciation.

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 8 / 10

A nuanced shyness

I haven't seen this director's first film, the 2002 Funny Ha Ha, but I'm already a fan, if a mild one, from this second effort. It's enjoyable to watch the quiet textures of ordinary young adult American life that Andrew Bujalski weaves, because his people talk in ways that are both witty and remarkably believable, even if the rhythms are mostly lackadaisical.

"If John Cassavetes had directed a script by Eric Rohmer," Variety's Joe Leydon has written, "the result might have looked and sounded like Mutual Appreciation." That indeed does give you a starting point for understanding what Andrew Bujalski (a Harvard film graduate, now thirty-one) is up to, except that these aren't Seventies American actors or later French ones, but mostly twenty-something American non-actors, and the result of the blending of methods and interests of those two older directors is different, of course, from either Rohmer or Cassavetes. Bujalski's film is grainy black and white, the look is rough, the scenes are improvisational and vérité. The topics and the conversations are delicate, however, like Rohmer's; there aren't any long harangues or violent arguments or tortured late-night epiphanies as was Cassavetes' way. Attractions, desires, choices – no huge dramas.

There's really just a triangle, two male friends and the girlfriend of one of them. The boyfriend is Lawrence (Bujalski himself); the girlfriend is Ellie (Rachel Clift). The other guy is Alan (Justin Rice, in real life founder of the indie-rock band Bishop Allen), who's just come to town (NYC, i.e., Brooklyn), whose band has split up, and who wants to get started again. Alan has an interview of radio, and the host, Sara (Seung-Min Lee) later hits on him. During the course of the action, at several times when Lawrence is away, Alan and Ellie acknowledge that they "like" each other. They have a "moment," as they say. But they don't do anything about it, as far as we see (the scenes are chopped off at the ends almost every time; that's the style). They both separately tell Lawrence about their "moment." Some consideration of gender roles comes up when Lawrence agrees -- very half-heartedly -- to participate in a reading of women's experiences with men; and when Alan is talked into putting on a dress. The trio of lovers and friends acknowledge the temptation to infidelity that has happened and end with a group hug. That's all that happens in the 109 minutes.

There's a hand-held camera, the grainy look of 16 mm., but Bujalski doesn't revel in the richness of black and white as Cassavetes' cameramen did. There's nothing particularly cinematic about Bujalski's method, which also has little to do with politics or current events or trends – except for the presence of cell phones. There are hardly any exterior shots. But something magical does happen in the way Bujalski and Rice and the other main characters, who aren't particularly photogenic, to put it mildly, start to look good to us, because the inner beauty of their natures – Alan's openness and positivity; Lawrence's sensitivity and goodness – gradually emerges from the thick grain. Because Bujalski's kitchen-sink use of awkwardness is so adept, it almost disappears. The pace is sometimes excruciating, but in a way this isn't a movie; it doesn't feel like one; and that's not so bad.

What makes the movie a success is the naturalness doesn't seem forced or self-conscious. The people aren't actor-y like Cassavetes and his pals. Their conversations are choppy and awkward sometimes, but alert, even witty. These aren't Actors Studio-style tortured-intensity Stanislawski moments, but remarkably believable recreations of twenty-first-century, twenty-something American conversations. Bujalski's characters, as his Wikipedia bio says, are "well-educated, yet socially inept young white people." The scenes, which include a show at a club that's not very well attended, and a little gathering at an older man's house afterward followed by another dying party of three women in wigs who dress Alan in drag, and phone conversations between Alan, the singer, and his father (one of them to voice mail, while Alan strums his guitar and doesn't answer), have a documentary feel, but it's a documentary that's niftily edited, about people observed so nicely you end by liking them.

In limited release. Seen at Cinema Village NYC September 18, 2006.

Reviewed by jadamson-2 8 / 10

HIlarious and Scary Portrait of Post-Grads

Painful awkwardness…it's a real problem. Bujalski masterfully uncovers a new generation of college graduates that probably seems all too familiar to some. The film captures moments of social anxiety that come from a generation of sheltered upper middle class graduates. The security of a sheltered life comes with a price: these people have no idea how to express emotions and talk about anything beyond mundane daily happenings unless, as Ellie says, they are fed multiple beers. When Ellie and Alan admit a mutual attraction for each other on the bed, they have absolutely no idea how to realize it. All Alan can do is hilariously and timidly rub Ellie's arm. Instead, Ellie simply goes back to a boyfriend that doesn't even experience a mood shift when Ellie tells him he is attracted to his best friend, and they had a very vague "moment". Are we finally seeing the consequences of not letting youth experience anything for themselves? Are these people victims of their upbringing or is it their own fault, or both? I sat there watching the film feeling entirely uncomfortable, which is why the film worked so well. The silence in the air often made me cringe, which created completely hilarious moments when the characters finally responded with confused, inarticulate comments: "I can't even do that thing where you're not my girlfriend and I'm making out with you". I was scared to watch the movie, because I was afraid it would remind me of my own post college life. Some moments did hit close to home for me, and I found myself reflecting on my own life as well as the characters in the film. This film is scary and funny at the same time. It reminds us to wake up, but to also realize that life is full of awkward moments and sometimes all there is to do is laugh at them. I saw this film at Chicago's Music Box, and suggest that everyone do the same before the film is gone from the theater.

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