Mutual Appreciation is as much a milestone of indie filmmaking as it is a victim of its own pretences. As with many of the other mumblecore films I’ve watched, the observer paradox seems to pervade much of the dialogue, much of which feels calculatingly awkward – one can distinguish between the improvised lines and premeditated lines. It is easy to believe that the makers of these films are very similar to their characters – young, confused, directionless – but the fact that the focus most often falls on the progeny of the last bourgeois generation takes away the integrity of this gritty, frugal filming style.
Having said that, the film does convey the relationships between its characters realistically, and some scenes successfully epitomise the unpredictability of life. I was particularly struck by one scene where Alan (Justin Rice) is besieged by women at a ‘party’ he wasn’t certain about going to in the first place, and is eventually persuaded to don a dress and make-up. Here it seems the actors were given the most room to ad-lib, and Rice tackles the daunting task convincingly. It’s a brilliant piece of footage which seems to speak to the majority of young adults and their issues with projecting identity.
Overall, the film is a satisfying experience if you allow yourself to believe in it. Given Hollywood’s transparent efforts to channel the “indie” aesthetic, it’s something of a find. However, without condemning the whole mumblecore movement, I think I sympathise more with its critics than its fans.