07 January 2007

Mutual Appreciation

If I saw Justin Rice, the star of Mutual Appreciation, at a party I would hide behind someone tall—so why would I want to see a movie about him? After leaving the theater in a bitter daze, my date dutifully reported that an elderly fellow spectator had quipped in the ladies' room, "I just can't watch young people for two hours." Me neither, lady.

In my personal life as a Brooklynite, I avoid Williamsburg hipsters like Long Island, and Mutual Appreciation is chockablock with nothing but. It deserves its critical accolades only to the extent that it is laudably naturalistic, both visually and in its acting styles. My virulent visceral reaction to the film's characters is a direct result of its overall believability.

As a critic, it wouldn't be fair to disparage a film because its characters remind me of real-life people I dislike, but that's not my essential grievance--Mutual Appreciation's bigger problem is that its superficially charming characters are not only unbearably solipsistic but that the tone of the film is maddeningly uncritical. Like the similarly flawed Garden State, which was visually impressive but made by Zach Braff for Pete's sake, it lacks a much needed adult perspective. It's one thing for the characters to be nettlesome navel-gazers, and quite another for the director to be one, too. (He also co-stars, go figure.)

I'd put the picture in the National Registry as a valuable record of the abject Williamsburg scene of the early twenty-first century, but I wouldn't ask you to watch it lest you were writing a book about cinematic realism or the decline of Western civilization. In that rare case, by all means.

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