The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Mutual Friends

I've been covering the independent film scene with keen interest since the mid-1990s, and in that time, I have seen dozens of movies about young urbanites trying to sort out their love lives. A few have been good - The Brothers McMullen is a personal favorite - but many of them suffer from being too cutesy and full of themselves. Mutual Friends is the latest in this indie subgenre. It manages to avoid most of the pitfalls other films of its nature have fallen victim to. You can actually identify with the characters and situations, which makes it a cut above the rest.

An ensemble picture that weaves together several different stories, Mutual Friends largely revolves around a birthday party for Christoph (Cheyanne Jackson). He has recently become engaged to girlfriend-of-a-short-time Liv (Caitlin FitzGerald). Liv's closest confidant, Nate (Peter Scanavino), has long been placed in the “friend zone” and takes the occasion of the party to confess his secret love to her. Also at the party are Christoph's ex-girlfriend of seven years, Annie (Jennifer LaFleur), who is none too happy that he never popped the question to her. Other characters include: Sammy (Ross Partridge), a husband who finds out his wife is cheating on him; Paul (Michael Stahl-David), who can't decide how he feels about impending fatherhood; and Cody (Derek Cecil), a guy Liv dated twice before realizing what an odd creep he was.

There's an interesting making-of story here. Mutual Friends has a handful of screenwriters, each of them brought in to pen one of the individual story threads within the film. Director Matthew Watts also included elements from his relationship with writer/co-producer Amy Higgins. That might seem to be the recipe for a disjointed movie, but in this case, it works. Mutual Friends is filled with characters who feel like real people, probably even people you know. (Or maybe yourself.) The situations, meanwhile, are also relatable and identifiable. The movie is about love in its many forms, from infatuation, to real love, to the kind of thing where you convince yourself you're in love because you want to be, not because you really are. With all the varied stories, it's almost guaranteed you'll see something that rings a bell.

The actors do very nice work across the board, creating characters that are easy to like and care about, even when they aren't at their finest. Caitlin FitzGerald (The Fitzgerald Family Christmas) is the MVP, once again showing a flair for both comedic and dramatic moments. Her scenes with Peter Scanavino are the heart and soul of the film. Together, the two effectively convey the weird mixture of compassion and resentment that comes from thinking you'll eventually get together with someone, only to have it not happen. There's a lot taking place on the surface, but it's what the two actors show under the surface that really makes it special.

Mutual Friends occasionally makes attempts at quirkiness that are a bit too precious, and Sammy's plot doesn't really end in a satisfactory way. Also, as with any movie that contains multiple storylines, you're likely to relate more to some than others. Nonetheless, there is plenty here to enjoy. Mutual Friends is often funny and true, and in the realm of movies about urbanites sorting out their love lives, that makes it a little treasure.

( out of four)

Note: Mutual Friends is available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Xbox Video, Sony Playstation, Vudu and Cable Movies On Demand.

Mutual Friends is unrated, but contains adult themes and language. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

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