Not for want of fans, Andrew Bujalski’s “Mutual Appreciation” is undoubtedly the underdog movie of the year. And I’m not the first to wonder if this black-and-white no-budget indie was released 15 years ago, would Bujalski be hailed as the next Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee or Kevin Smith — and have a similar career to show for it? As it is, of course, the film has languished without a distributor and is being released in a single theater, the Cinema Village, this weekend in New York. (For other venues, click here.)
Many critics have focused on the stammering dialogue (“I have a congenital tremor,” says hapless protagonist Alan (Justin Rice). “Everyone in my family shakes.”) And while Bujalski’s scripting is brilliant, littered with wonderfully onomatopoeic words (“smoosh,” “blips,” “asymptote”), it’s another type of shaking in the film that burns in my mind. Mid-way through the movie, Rice — a member of the band Bishop Allen — delivers a jittery, electric music performance at Williamsburg club Northsix that lights the otherwise somnambulant film on fire. His brief set is worth the price of admission alone.
And for those in the New York film industry, doesn’t Rice strike a startling resemblance to one Variety film reporter? Has anyone else noticed the similarity?