So, I've read a few blogs recently that reference the Onion A.V. Club Blog, where Scott Tobias talks about "Old Joy" and "Mutual Appreciation." What seems to be interesting to most folks is the discussion/comments that've followed...essentially, some people either bashing "Mutual Appreciation" or just scratching their heads. And some other people seem to be quite fond of it.
Well, I was at a special screening of "Mutual Appreciation" a few weeks ago, and writer/director Andrew Bujalski did a post-screening Q and A. Which I enjoyed quite a bit. The first question was from an older gentleman who said something along the lines of, "'Mutual Appreciation?' Seems more like mutual frustration! I couldn't tell what anybody was talking about--they kept mumbling!"
Bujalski gracefully answered the non-question by smiling and saying, "Well, if that bothered you then you probably won't like my other film either."
Which is true.
I for one am a fan of both "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation." I've seen them both several times now, and while no, they're not "about" all that much, they so resemble my life and the lives of people around me that I'm astounded by Andrew Bujalski's insight and ear. I guess I am a hipster guy in my 20's, like the characters. Whatever. Perhaps it's vanity, but seeing something that looks like you on a big screen causes a unique, pleasurable (and occasionally uncomfortable) sensation. Bujaski's films are too blessedly modest (thank you!) to try to teach us anything about the world, but in depicting the world he knows, the director has managed to reflect and, yes, help people learn about themselves. Or at least laugh at themselves, which is much more than most films.
*A note: I'm writing all this as an objective observer of Bujalski's films, not as his friend. We don't know each other--though I am friends with the former drummer of Bishop Allen (which is the band that Justin Rice--the star of "Mutual Appreciation"--fronts). And yes, I'm a fan of Bishop Allen. They make music that is just at modest as Bujalski's films (again, thank you! In their fine and ambitious intentions, bands like U2 and Coldplay make me want to drink bleach) and is a rather wonderful confection of bouncy pop-rock. Great lyrics, too.
At the screening, I had a question that speaks to my own predilections (those being that I'm not all that interested in people in my own demographic--I much prefer writing about the lives of the very young or old--and I also like stories set in more rural and less-represented areas).
I asked Andrew if he was interested in making a movie about people who are of a different age or socioeconomic class than him.
He seemed incredibly honest in his response, which was something like: "Sure. But right now I'm making movies about what I know and feel like I can do a good job at. I make movies with specific friends in mind to play parts, and they happen to be close to me in age." Bujalski also added that he made a short film (with the actors who played the father and older, bald music exec in "Mutual Appreciation") that will, I believe, be included on the DVD.
If you loathe people that you'd define as "hipsters," you'll probably have a chip the size of a boulder on your shoulder when you walk into the theater to see "Mutual Appreciation." You'll probably leave in a pissy mood. But if you don't mind spending an hour or so with young, creative, sensitive, mumbling, and hyper-educated (perhaps too much for their own good) folks, you might want to check out "Mutual Appreciation." They mean well. And they don't bite (or make fun of your musical taste).
Because let me tell you this: as someone who's lived in Williamsburg and has friends all over Cambridge/Jamaica Plain, Austin, Athens, Chapel Hill, Chicago, Madison, Berkeley/San Francisco, and Silverlake/Echo Park, "Mutual Appreciation" plays out less like a low-budget scripted film and more like a documentary.