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By Phil Hall | September 16, 2004

There is precious little to admire in “Mutual Admiration Society,” an intellectually-enervated effort credited to one “Satchel Underwood,” which is actually the pseudonym for producer Adam Michael Reed (who also appears in the film under another pseudonym, Kip Armadill). You know a film is in trouble when its creator won’t put his name on it.

Shot in DV over an eight-day period, “Mutual Admiration Society” takes place on a July 4th in the town of Manchester, New Hampshire. Just what this Independence Day is supposed to signify is never quite clear, especially when the film’s focus (a mangy collection of overage frat boys and slackers) seem to have too much freedom on their hand. During the course of the film, these guys play basketball, smoke pot, talk about sex, call each other names, drink beer, threaten each other with violence, eat pizza, m********e (mercifully out of camera range) and whine. There is also a weird clown, complete with thick circus make-up and a fright wig, who snarls at the other guys with a sissy voice while stomping around the scene like Godzilla smashing Tokyo for the umpteenth time. If this sounds dull to read, try sitting through 89 minutes of it, complete with a soundtrack polluted with a numbing selection of rock tunes by third-rate garage bands.

In the press notes for the film, it is stated that “more than half of the ‘actors’ in the film had never acted in anything before in their lives.” Well, we didn’t need the press notes to realize that. Nobody in this film knows how to act; you can find better performances in a bank surveillance video than in “Mutual Admiration Society.” The ensemble cast divides its concept of acting into two parts: either they mumble their lines like frightened children doing hokey recitals for a school talent show or they spit out their dialogue with the same contempt and queasiness as a vegan spitting out an accidentally-chomped piece of meat. It is not clear how these guys wound up in the film, but hopefully in the future they will stay as far away from a camera as possible.

Filmmaker Reed/Underwood/Armadill clearly studied a lot of movies before making this, as the film is thick with blatant borrowing out of the style books of every reigning cinema icon from Kevin Smith to David Lynch. There is even a triptych split-screen sequence, a clumsy bit of business that hasn’t been seen on-screen since “Woodstock.” Unfortunately, “Mutual Admiration Society” borrows from so many different filmmakers that it ultimately lacks its own style. And with its pointless screenplay and talent-free cast, it literally becomes a chore and a bore too quickly.

For the record, “Mutual Admiration Society” won the Chop/Cut Award for Best Editing at the Festival of the Macabre in Pittsburgh and the Director’s Trophy at the UC Davis International Independent Film Festival. The film may be a dud, but at least it can claim to be an award-winning dud.

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