Mutual Friends: Film Review

Unusual production yields a familiar group rom-com.

Matthew Watts assembles an ensemble relationship film out of stories penned by a half-dozen collaborators.

A gaggle of well-to-do New Yorkers fumble their way through relationship crises in Matthew Watts's Mutual Friends, whose various subplots were penned by multiple writing teams, then woven into a circle-of-friends narrative leading everyone to one very uncomfortable surprise party. The film's comic flow suffers from this patchwork approach, with individual storylines feeling both incomplete and overemphasized; as a whole, the film is diverting but unlikely to draw much attention.

The central point for all this action is Liv (Caitlin Fitzgerald), who is planning a birthday party for her hunky fiance Christoph (Cheyenne Jackson). As she goes about the day's harried preparations -- handling cake and catering crises, accidentally inviting a friend-of-a-friend who turns out to be Christoph's long-term ex-girlfriend -- her siblings and friends have troubles of their own.

Beatrice (Christina Cole) has gotten pregnant and doesn't realize how freaked out this makes her husband; Sammy (Ross Partridge), intuiting that his wife is cheating on him, enlists his assistant Chernus (Michael Chernus) to go on a stakeout; Thomas (Devin Burnam), given a very specific party-prep chore to do, instead spends the day with a stripper buying party favors that will definitely not go with the event's we've-all-married-to-lawyers vibe. Then there's Nate (Peter Scanavino), Liv's best friend, who wants to chat with her about their ill-advised night together last Labor Day.

With the emphasis the script puts on Nate's no-strings-attached romantic philosophy rubbing against his need to clear the air about this one-night stand, even a poor student of romantic comedies will see this one's end coming early. Similarly prefab is the film's hunger to include shots of as many Big Apple sights as possible, as if setting these young actors against images of Chelsea and Central Park will make them more convincing as successful professionals. It doesn't, really, and token slacker Nate isn't as roguishly charming as the film thinks he is, even with an acoustic guitar in his hands. The picture's snowballing social mishaps provide for a laugh here and there, but almost all those assorted plotlines fizzle when they're all stacked up together.

Production Companies: Covert Productions, Firebrand Films

Cast: Caitlin Fitzgerald, Peter Scanavino, Cheyenne Jackson, Michael Stahl-David, Christina Cole, Ross Partridge

Director: Matthew Watts

Screenwriters: Matthew Watts, Frank Angones, Jessica Sue Burstein, Craig DiFolco, Ross Partridge, Olivia Silver, Amy Higgins

Producers: Jennifer Westin

Executive producers: Michael Tannen

Director of photography: Ming Kia Leung

Production designer: Simone Duff

Music: Justin Rice

Costume designer: Tracy Moulton

Editor: Jeff Gilbert

Sales: Noor Ahmed, Reder & Feig LLP

No rating, 84 minutes

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