MUTUAL APPRECIATION (Andrew Bujalski). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (October 13) at the Bloor. See Indie & Rep Film, page 101. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Andrew Bujalski 's debut feature, Funny Ha Ha, made some U.S. critics' top-10 lists in 2005 but never played here. Now, the Bloor is screening his sophomore effort, Mutual Appreciation , a charming and witty low-budget look at post-university angst and awkwardness that could strike a cult chord.
Bed-headed indie musician Alan ( Justin Rice ) has just arrived in Brooklyn from Boston. He's got a gig lined up but has suddenly lost his band. A local radio DJ ( Seung-Min Lee ) suggests her drummer brother but is also clearly smitten with Alan. He, though, enjoys flirting with his geeky friend Lawrence's (Bujalski) girlfriend, Ellie ( Rachel Clift ).
What's so refreshing about the film is its total lack of concern with mapped-out storytelling or banal character arcs. Bujalski captures the ironic, passive-aggressive cadences of modern urban life. A line like "Are you sure you don't want to break up with me?" says a lot with a little.
Look for the long middle section featuring two parties that brim with unspoken tension about gender, sex and power.
Bujalski's compositions, like his actors' performances, are pleasing to look at but not self-conscious or fussy. The black-and-white film is enhanced by crisp sound.
Let's hope this guy doesn't lose his vision when a studio comes calling with millions of dollars.