The micro-budgeted second feature of US indie writer-director Andrew Bujalski, Mutual Appreciation is an amiable, low-key comedy about directionless bohemian twentysomethings in contemporary Brooklyn. The plot is slender: singer-songwiter Alan (Justin Rice) pitches up in New York hoping to advance his musical career, and hangs out with best friend Lawrence (Bujalski) and his girlfriend Ellie (Rachel Clift). So far, so so, but Bujalski is a shrewd comic observer, and astute enough a director to get the most of his engaging actors.
As in his recently released debut Funny Ha Ha, the characters in Mutual Appreciation talk endlessly, and the filmmaker captures the hesitations, stumbles and pauses in their conversations faithfully. The tousle-haired Alan has the habit of answering questions by quizzically repeating the enquiry: asked by a female radio DJ (Seung- Min Lee) whether he has a girlfriend, he ponders aloud: "Do I have a girlfriend?" Increasingly, it becomes clear that the rambling conversations are a way of avoiding confronting difficult emotions and feelings, with Ellie, who nurses a crush on Alan, admitting that "reality would be nice to talk about."
On the surface, Mutual Appreciation seems like a loosely constructed affair, in which Bujalski simply cuts between lengthy scenes of dialogue. But beneath this apparent aimlessness, there's an impressive attention to detail at work. The film is consistently amusing throughout: Woody Allen, you feel, would have appreciated Alan's description of his shaky hand during an amatory encounter as "a congenital tremor."
Mutual Appreciation is released in UK cinemas on Friday 4th May 2007.