Reviewed at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
Supporting Characters is a film about filmmakers. I know, I know. If there's one complaint about the indie film scene that genuinely holds water, it's that there's too damn many movies about making movies; it betrays an insulation, a bubble mentality, the notion that the only life experience these people have to draw from is the act of creating a film. The complaints are legitimate, and often valid. This is not enough of a reason to dismiss Supporting Characters, however, which is a droll and knowing little film that doesn't get bogged down in the specifics. The broad strokes are relatable--and besides, the (thankfully unstated) themes of the picture reveal the choice of protagonists to be less arbitrary than it might seem.
Those protagonists are Nick (Alex Karpovsky, the wry co-star of Girls and Tiny Furniture) and Darryl (co-writer Tarik Lowe), who work together as editors on mid-level motion picture. Their latest project is in something of a crisis, thanks to an absentee director (Kevin Corrigan) and a combative producer (Mike Landry); because the director is a non-presence, Nick ends up spending a bit of post-production time with the film's sexy leading lady (Arielle Kebbel). This gets tricky, since he's engaged to lovely, reliable Amy (Sophia Takal). Darryl, meanwhile, is in a tempestuous new relationship with Liana (Melonie Diaz), which may or may not be distracting him from the work.
Lowe and director Daniel Schechter's script is fast and witty--the Nick/Darryl duets (which make up a good chunk of the picture) have a sharp, conversational style and tempo, as well as the sense of a long-time friendship, articulated by ball-busting and one-upsmanship--and it got an insider's knowledge of the business, what with the metaphorical act of partioning drives and labeling bins, or the escalating flirtations at an ADR session. (Between this and the hot foley recording scene in Nobody Walks, it's a big year for sexy sound nerds.)
More than anything, though, their script gets the mirroring, complimentary dynamics of the relationships at its core: the comfort of the established, lived-in romance; the hot-and-cold of the new and slightly unstable pairing; and the pull of what could be, the temptation of an exciting new possibility. And there are some uncomfortable truths as well, particularly with regards to the question of perception; the presentation of any relationship, Nick insists, is "an illusion that couples create when a third party enters the room." Dark? Maybe. True? Sometimes.
As a director, Schechter has an eye for clean, easy compositions, and a good film sense--he knows when to get in and get out of a scene, and does the expected third-act shift into serious mode swiftly and painlessly. Best of all, he threads the thematic subtext (if only these guys could edit their lives as cleanly as they can edit a film) throughout the narrative without ever succumbing to the temptation of having anybody lay it out. Supporting Characters isn't a groundbreaking movie--it doesn't do anything altogether new. But it's a smart and sophisticated effort, and as a snapshot of New York relationships (and filmmaking), it couldn't feel more authentic.
Jason lives with his wife Rebekah and their daughter Lucy in New York. He holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU. He is film editor for Flavorwire and is a contributor to Salon, the Atlantic, and several other publications. His first book, Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece, was released last fall by Voyageur Press. He blogs at Fourth Row Center and is yet another critic with a Twitter feed.