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Alex Ross Perry
Kate Lyn Sheil
Jessica and Gus, two apathetic teenagers, drift aimlessly from one day to the next until they meet each other. They make a tenuous and fleeting connection when Gus confides in Jessica about his dark past.
Jamie is 21. She's from Atlanta. She's come to Brooklyn to visit her friend Samantha, but she can't find her. Jamie meets a stranger named Charlie on the subway and spends 24 hours hanging out with him.
Adults in their 20s circle each other, their bodies in motion, with occasional attractions and lots of talk. Alan is a musician, just down to New York from Boston, hanging out with his friend Lawrence and Lawrence's girlfriend Ellie. Alan and Ellie are on a bed talking: is this prelude or possibility? Sara, who has interviewed Alan for the radio, seems attracted to Alan, but Alan may not be so sure. They, too, sit on the edge of a bed. He has a gig; it goes well. How should he handle Sara? Has the moment with Ellie passed? Do things play out or does time merely pass as bodies move through space? Written by
The wider opinion will be anything but mutual but this indie film is interesting and occasionally quite smart.
I think a film like Mutual Appreciation and films in general akin to Mutual Appreciation will more often than not get a bit of a sigh from its audience following the first five minutes, possibly followed by a rolling of the eyes. But while certain experiments can go wrong when it comes to film, I don't think Mutual Appreciation is a film to be sniffed at. Its really low budget and the fact it goes a for a pretty long runtime considering what conditions these people are making it under add to the overall experience of watching a film as guerrilla style and as unordinary as this one but the most surprising thing I found was just how interested I really was as these scenes and this runtime were totalling up.
Mutual Appreciation is a film about students, made by students. It carries all those tags you'd associated with the young, the up-coming and the adventurous in the sense there are lots of long takes; there's dialogue that doesn't revolve around anything and the makers are using people they probably picked off the street for locations that are their own homes the film even gives us a few well shot scenes on actual streets but not in the cornered off, Hollywood sense where lots of extras make up the background and a police presence stops anything going wrong, oh no: this is neo-realism, out on the roads, with self-motivated written permission for filming and everything else that comes with it.
I guess we've all attempted to make a film at one point in our lives. For some, it becomes careers; for others it is limited to a brief recording of a friend or loved one on a holiday via a camera phone or a recording of an event such as a wedding or birthday party, the ultimate 'home movie'. But Mutual Appreciation is a 'home movie' of sorts that relies on people in a fictional yet realistic situation attempting to, at the film's core, find who they are and where they belong with what they belong doing following up as a sort of sub-theme. Conversations can take place in houses or flats; on city streets or in cars and can revolve around anything in particular like the size of a mole on someone's body to the meaningless chit-chat that occurs between a band member and the host before a live musical performance.
But the truly scary thing about the dialogue is just how good it is or just how interesting it is when it's trying to be smart and carry substance. The host of the musical performance owns a cinematic space that is vastly the superior of all the other locations, especially ones that dictate where certain characters live. In his kitchen, primary characters Alan (Rice) and Sera (Lee) will have an uneasy conversation that will have you flinch somewhat to do with their relationship it does not help matters that the preceding scenes had her in a flirtatious mindset with the host of both the apartment.
But as I say, the film's focus is on these people and where they fit into society. Alan seems to be chasing a musical fondness of some sort but must negotiate girls in the process as well as his father's constant wish for him to earn money to help for more immediate issues. The film gives us splashes of other people. Lawrence, played by Andrew Bujalski the film's writer/director gives advice in his own little room to a girl who is requesting help for male read monologues, something that has no bearing on the overall film but does pop up later on reminding us of this earlier exchange. The point here being that whilst not necessarily demanding an 'art' label, the film proves it is able to deliver a nicely written scene in which one character will help another through good dialogue good dialogue being pretty much the only thing films like this have initially: they don't have much money for special effect or acting talent and cannot give us lush locations and fancy visual aids but anybody can write a page of dialogue on anything. Mutual Appreciation takes advantage of this one factor.
Going on from the scenes that do work through attention to substance, Alan's immediate life is focused upon following the leaving of the host's flat following the musical performance. He visits a girl with whom he is friends and nothing more. He has left the previous apartment with his female 'partner' still there after going through a minor break-up with someone who came onto him and witnessing her flirtatious activity. In the new location, he is relegated once more and his manhood jeopardised when the female host and her female friends convince him to dress up in female clothing this relegating him further into a sort of metaphorical mire of embarrassment and failure to control a situation when activity involving multiple genders threaten to escalate out of Alan's control he has failed again.
But Alan's voyage around a night time urban location does not go on for too long and the theory reading has to stop after this scene; this is not Mike Leigh's 1993 film Naked after all. But what it is is an interesting and somewhat unique look at life in America round about now as a young adult or late teen. When issues of sex and relationships arise they are not dealt with in a childish 'American Pie' manner but are constructed and developed - not a film for all but I got a mild kick out of it.
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