Sunday, May 09, 2010

MUTUAL APPRECIATION (2006) -
Andrew Bujalski


My rapid absorption of mid-career Woody Allen films in high school was probably the biggest motivator for my decision to go to film school in New York. And my overly-romanticized memories of the better of those films (Manhattan, Broadway Danny Rose, Annie Hall) may have even played a small part in my decision to move back over a decade later (I assure you it had nothing to do with Anything Else or Whatever Works). But the New York depicted in Woody Allen movies now (when he's not depicting Barcelona or London) looks nothing at all like the New York I see around me every day. I'm not so sure that New York even exists anymore. But I know for a fact that the one in this Andrew Bujalski film does.

In fact, it's painfully recognizable. Borderline artist-types vaguely employed and drowning in credit card debt stumble from one free gig or friend's apartment party to another, trying to make connections professional and personal and usually not succeeding at either. Awkward situations and obscure pop culture references abound. Yep, seen it, done it. All I need to do is open a window or put my ear to the floorboards, and I've got it in surround sound.

Living in Brooklyn a stone's throw away from hipster central, I'm the first person to be less than interested in seeing a film about all of the above. Yet, Bujalski manages to make it all seem fresher and less obnoxious than you might think. And in grimy 16mm black and white. Through some very relaxed though disarmingly effective scene-work, Bujalski manages to find little moments of truth in the awkwardness, snag tiny bits of meaning amid the malaise. The scene where the bedheaded and bandless lead singer arrives to a party too late only to become victim of the few remaining female guests' drunken game of dress-up...sadly, I feel like I've been to that party. The one where he and his friends are invited to a much more successful (and much douchier) guy's swank pad with thoughts of career advancement only...I know for a fact I was there.

After seeing Funny Ha Ha and now Mutual Appreciation, Bujalski has my vote for Heir to the Woody Allen Throne. Even if that throne now resides in Park Slope instead of Central Park West.

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