Midway through director Matthew Watts' Mutual Friends, a shift in tone and a clarification of purpose allow the film to course-correct. One character's inopportune confession of love sparks anger, heartbreak, and confusion but also pushes Mutual Friends beyond its tedious look at contemporary white New York stereo- and archetypes (wisecracking boy, hipster schlubs; narcissistic young businessmen; sexy but neurotic or high-strung women) who are almost uniformly insufferable.
Working from a script penned by a half dozen writers, Watts at first shuffles and reshuffles his characters, positioning them in small groups in low-key settings in order to establish their relationships and fill in their personalities. The film's first half is a conversation-driven character study in which the chatter is largely flat and witless. But the confession at the midpoint leads up to a comically disastrous party that makes up most of the film's second half. There, the humor sharpens, and the characters move beyond mere types. They're still largely unlikeable, but as the sun sets on some relationships and rises on others, the people on-screen slowly become recognizable as human.