Movie Review: ‘Supporting Characters,’ Directed by Daniel Schechter

January 30th, 2013

Tribeca Film

In “Supporting Characters,” Alex Karpovsky and Sophia Takal play a couple debating whether to have a prenuptial agreement.

There are many rueful chuckles to be harvested from “Supporting Characters,” Daniel Schechter’s small, minutely observed portrait of fragile egos colliding inside the pressure cooker of New York’s indie filmmaking world. The main characters, Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe, who wrote the screenplay with Mr. Schechter), are a film-editing team busy polishing a shaky comedy.

Both Nick and Darryl have strong, demanding girlfriends. Nick and his fiancée, Amy (Sophia Takal), fitfully argue over the necessity of a prenuptial agreement, which her father wants them to negotiate. Darryl’s loudmouthed, bossy girlfriend, Liana (Melonie Diaz) — a stickler for relationship etiquette, including the niceties of bedroom manners — is not as committed as he would like.

Even the longstanding friendship of Nick and Darryl has its sensitive spots. Although Nick makes the editorial decisions, Darryl is the technical whiz who executes them, and they squabble about who works harder. Sensitive to perceived racial slights, Darryl, an African-American, is rankled by Nick’s decision to excise a minor character, a black doorman, from their work in progress. Tensions are exacerbated when Nick is offered an editing job without Darryl, who would be replaced by an intern to save money.

If all these conflicts seem like very small potatoes, this well-acted film captures a generational and occupational sliver of New York life that rings true. You feel the financial and workplace anxieties of these ambitious, high-strung people in their 30s. They may not be especially likable, but they are authentic.

The movie has some of the same sensibility as Lena Dunham’s HBO series, “Girls,” in which Mr. Karpovsky is a regular. (Ms. Dunham plays a minor role in “Supporting Characters.”) But these people are slightly older and more grounded and are based predominantly in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn. Darryl, an exception, lives in Brooklyn and complains about his 45-minute commute to Manhattan.

The wild card of “Supporting Characters” is Jamie (Arielle Kebbel), the pot-smoking star of the movie being made. She’s a careless blond beauty who for no particular reason throws herself at Nick while keeping her current boyfriend dangling. Nick, despite himself, is wildly smitten.

The romantic playing field in “Supporting Characters” is a perilous place fraught with jealousy and competition. The women call the shots, bluntly speak their minds and have no patience for the traditional dating rules, which the confused men reflexively fall back on. Behind every conversation, you sense a simmering power struggle.

This is a social climate in which complete transparency is essential for the health of a relationship, and any attempt to conceal an unconsummated flirtation will probably come back to bite you, usually via computer. The emotional default position is deep-seated mistrust.

Supporting Characters

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed and edited by Daniel Schechter; written by Tarik Lowe and Mr. Schechter; produced by Tim Duff; released by Tribeca Films. At the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Alex Karpovsky (Nick), Tarik Lowe (Darryl), Arielle Kebbel (Jamie), Kevin Corrigan (Adrian), Sophia Takal (Amy), Melonie Diaz (Liana), Sebastian Sozzi (Sebastian), Mike Landry (Mike) and Lena Dunham (Alexa).

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