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Film Review 

REVIEW: THE MEND (John Magary – 2014) [Possible Worlds Film Festival]

Thu 14 Aug 6:30pm | Event Cinemas George St

After almost two hours of The Mend you’ll be grasping for what you felt beyond this indefinable stilted objectivity. Writer/director John Magary takes you into New York neo-bohemia via Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and Farrah (Mickey Sumner), celebrating the success of Farrah’s dance troupe. Stumbling back into their lives, fresh from a fiery break-up with Andrea (Lucy Owen) and roving the numbered streets of New York City on the razor’s edge of homelessness is Alan’s brother Mat (Josh Lucas).

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Magary’s wants you to dive into the excruciating minutiae of the Mat and Alan’s lives and particularly their hypocrisies. The Mend has large stretches that unfold in real time, every moment of bickering, forced courtesy and escapes to regain composure embed you into this unfurling examination. He uses an almost silent film score to inflate the agonising triviality of these wounded people. Magary’s direction elevates everything. It’s not just in his use of ‘iris’ transitions to supplement the score and texture, he’s got a great sense of movement to get into the characters’ headspace. Whether it is Mat, drunk to the point that he can’t walk, crawling in a disorientating sway; the fluid dances of Farrah and her friends undulating and draping themselves around the apartment; or the Andrea’s reaching to close doors and maintain privacy in the throes of spontaneous sex; you’re experiencing their manoeuvring, their motions, their muscles wrenching and flexing. Magary is also content to sit and allow a character Austin Pendleton’s Earl hold court for a long exchange and you sit and watch every reaction.

Lucas’ Mat is an incarnation of ‘champagne tastes, beer pocket.’ He’s one of those people that we’ve all encountered; lots of potential, charm, smarts and uses them for the evil of scrounging his way through existence. He’s got this air of entitlement that he deserves to be pampered and owed the support of Alan even though he’s essentially squatting in his life. Lucas is tremendous. For an actor that’s often relegated to the dreariness of rom-coms or cartoonish villainy he invests in the character to take you all the way to infuriation.

Plunkett’s Alan is suffering from a privileged yet cripplingly mediocre life. He exudes the same entitlement that Mat does, except for him it’s elevating himself above others because he’s college educated. The glimpse into his work life is all the more depressing; it echoed that very first tour through Slough with David Brent (Ricky Gervais) in The Office. Plunkett has to make you hate and sympathise the whiny  pathetic and neutered Alan. Magary doesn’t wanted to harp on it, but there are insinuations that he’s not quite there.

Owen’s Andrea is a Mat addict. She loves the way he makes her feel at the expense of the situation that she’ll continue to put her and her son Ronnie through. Owen’s able to juggle warmth, emotional sensitivity and maddening cluelessness for dragging her son into this situation like carry on luggage. I feel like Andrea’s son Ronnie, played by Cory Nichols, is the character that you’re able to latch onto the most. There’s a wonder and admiration in his eyes that devolves into him calculating escape. He, like the audience, is watching the excruciatingly deficient adults around him clamour for attention, comfort and the perverse thing that they believe is love.

Sumner’s Farrah has an indefinable something. She’s got a vibrance and pragmatism that is the sunshine for Alan. It’s hard to see at first just how much her presence elevates his imbalance.

Oscar Wilde once said: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” The Mend is about choices. Do you toss someone a flotation devise or a brick? Find out.

[rating=3]

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by John Magary
Produced by Myna Joseph and Michael Prall
Written by: John Magary (screen play/story) from a story co-written by Russell Harbaugh and Myna Joseph
Starring: Josh Lucas, Stephen Plunkett, Lucy Owen, Cory Nichols, Mickey Sumner, Louisa Krause, Austin Pendleton

Josh Lucas … Mat
Stephen Plunkett … Alan
Lucy Owen … Andrea
Cory Nichols … Ronnie
Mickey Sumner … Farrah
Louisa Krause … Elinor
Austin Pendleton … Earl

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