Movie Review: ‘The Mend’

Review by Tom Swift

A thirty-something freeloader goads his do-gooder brother to anger and inescapable manhood.

A great looking melodrama, The Mend’s dark interiors look inside the heart of millennial, male darkness. The answer: all you need is a good woman to give purpose to your life. However, fulfilling that timeless fantasy will not make you happy, only less lonely, as you hang on to whatever control you might have.

Now count to three and ask yourself: does that sound like fun? This is a drama about brooders which would like to think of itself as a dark comedy. And if you revel in boorish behavior masquerading as existential angst laced with narcissism, this is your movie. If you watch this alone, your dark side might revel in this, but chances are you’re not going to laugh much if anyone else is around. Alan and Mat are too self-absorbed to throw you a line and act as if they cared about the audience.

Living in an upscale neighborhood in Harlem that feels suspiciously like mega-trendy Brooklyn, Alan and his long term girlfriend / roommate, Farrah, are on the verge of going on a vacation — where they have agreed to propose to one another in an orgy of staged spontaneity.

With commitment issues far more serious, Mat crashes a party for Farrah’s dance troop. Don’t worry: Farrah’s just the office manager, not an artist. She’s settled in life – which might be why she’s so fearful of settling for Alan. The party seems to be a testament to the emptiness of hipster life as well. The only bright light is the guys’ Uncle Earl – who represents real spontaneity despite pushing eighty. Earl grouses that the guys don’t call their parents. Mat’s still pissed off at his father for a long ago affair. Alan doesn’t feel much –one way or another. However, he never returns his mother’s calls.

As Alan and Farrah head off to Nova Scotia for the hiking vacation, Mat moves himself, his girlfriend Andrea and her woebegone son Ronnie into the apartment. Mat would never admit he likes the family feel to all this. Alan returns without Farrah – having been unable to pop the preordained question.

The brothers go on a moderately fueled binge which shows what jerks they really are. Farrah returns, ready to settle. Mat takes off for who knows where. Alan as the movie ends still feels incomplete.

For those of us desperate for a return to relevant drama in American films, this is a half-step. The emotions are way too passive / aggressive to truly engage us in the action.

Josh Lucas is Mat, the freeloader, whose physical endowments are presented as the reason he has gotten along in life. If you’re a hunk apparently, there will always be another woman to take care of your bad attitude. Stephen Plunkett as Alan is so damned earnest you want to hit him as Don Corleone did to the singer in Thee Godfather: “act like a man.” The Mend courts that very reference with several allusions, and the fact that marriage is a deal Alan couldn’t refuse.

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