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Movie Review: Mutual Appreciation
So my first movie review for LAist turns out to be for a totally New York movie. That’s ironic, or something. Not that you know it’s set in New York, per se, because it’s mostly interior shots and they never really say where it is. But you’d kinda be able to guess after a while, because pretty much every character is like Woody Allen without the jokes: whiny, navel-gazing in a neurotic way (as opposed to in a narcissistic way, which would be L.A.), unattractive, nerdy...most of all, though, they’re not funny. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that it feels like they’re supposed to be.
Otherwise, the movie is just plotless and pointless.
I like that it’s in black and white film, though. You don’t see that much any more, mainly because it used to be the recourse of a low-budget filmmaker, but these days color DV is cheaper still. Black and white nowadays makes me think of Jim Jarmusch, or Louis C.K.’s absolutely fantastic and never-widely-released movie TOMORROW NIGHT.
Writer-director Andrew Bujalski, possibly needless to say, isn’t comparable to either -- his humor isn’t deadpan dry enough to be like Jarmusch, or surrealist enough to be C.K. His characters have conversations about things like iron deficiencies or good David Bowie versus bad David Bowie, and argue mildly about how to make cookies, but there aren’t any funny lines as such. Maybe you’re supposed to be all, “Hey, this situation seems uncomfortably familiar to one I recently experienced! Boy, the parallels sure are amusing!”
So, if you're an irritating singer-songwriter from Boston (Alan, played by Justin Rice, who actually is in a band called Bishop Allen) who moves to the big city to hang with your best friend Lawrence (Bujalski) and his girlfriend Ellie (Rachel Clift), this could be your thing. Alan loses my sympathies right away, however, when this one smokin' hot Asian chick (Seung-Min Lee) comes on to him, makes out with him, and he totally turns her down, which is uncomfortable for him not because she's hot, but because her brother, who isn't Asian, has become his drummer. At least I think it's her brother. That part isn't totally clear.
Then Alan books a gig, and we have to hear him sing and play for one and a half songs, and people complain there isn't a big turnout, but he has at least ten attendees, which is pretty good for someone who just moved to town -- I've certainly been to worse-attended concerts in my time. After that, there are two different parties. First, one held by a creepy bald dude who
seems to be hitting on the Asian chick, which could be uncomfortable except that Alan has already decided he doesn't care about her. This is followed by another party where everyone is wearing wigs and all the ladies make Alan dress in drag. The fact that these parties drag on into the a.m. hours is also a signal that this is New York -- when was the last L.A. party you went to where most of the guests hadn't split by midnight?
Normally I wouldn't spoil any more of the "plot," but every single description I've read of this movie anywhere (i.e. its own press notes and the Scott Foundas review in the Weekly) defines the movie based on what happens in the last act, which is that Alan and Ellie kinda start being attracted to each other. The best part about that is they deserve each other, but the worst part is it's hard to sympathize with either one, because you, the moviegoer, could almost certainly do better. I hardly ever get a date [cue someone in the comments section: "With reviews like this, I can see why!" Ha ha, tee hee, move along] but I nonetheless feel like I'm one up on these losers. But good for Alan that he left the hot Asian chick so that she can find someone better to hook up with later on. Towards the end, Lawrence tells Ellie that she's funny, to which I wanted to yell, "NO! NO SHE'S NOT! AND NEITHER ARE YOU!"
There was an English movie that came out a few weeks ago called THE TROUBLE WITH MEN AND WOMEN that had the same theme, but wasn't trying to be funny, and actually had a certain amount of reality to it -- when it showed sex, the sex looked real and not like Hollywood choreography. See that one instead, if you're into this sort of thing. This one has no sex, just a
heaping dose of the awkwardness that surrounds it. Which is no fun.
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