SXSW 2014 Review: THE MEND

By Nikki May

Rating: D

The premise is perfectly fine — two brothers, seemingly different people, manage to figure out they’re more simliar than they thought. Just from that description alone, you would think it would be interesting, though not incredibly original. It has room to wiggle, room for some uniqueness in a rather known trope. Even better, it was promoted as a dark comedy, so I prepared myself for the uncomfortable amusement.

I was never uncomfortable and barely amused.

Without giving too much away, you follow Alan (Stephen Plunkett), an awkward Mark Ruffalo doppelgänger,  and his journey (torment, rather) in dealing with losing his girlfriend and the anomaly that is his brother, Mat (Josh Lucas). Upon returning from his failed engagement vacation, Alan finds his brother quite at home in his apartment. Now that we have the set up, so begins the shenanigans, right?

I wish they were worthy enough to even be called that. Their banter consisted of half-ass jokes that honestly weren’t much more than side comments. They were the kind of jokes you would laugh at because you felt you should.  Their bonding over alcohol was expected, and a fist fight or two, all right. Stealing a walkie-talkie from a poor man on a movie set was probably the only thing that actually put a smile on my face. So, where’s the dark comedy? In the theft of that walkie-talkie, that painful attempt at hilarity with the crushed dog? I couldn’t find it.

The characters were underdeveloped and bland. Mat assumed the stagnant role of the man that can’t help but ruin things. Alan was the emotionally struggling man who forgets his problems by falling prey to his brother’s gimmicks.  The friends throughout were just there as a plot point, serving no more of a purpose than varying the dialogue.  With a story and premise like this, there’s so much room for having character complexities. There wasn’t any from what I could tell. They seemed cookie cutter, following the path that would be expected of them with a painful precision.

And the music? To me it sounded like the reject tracks from Cinderella with it’s harsh string instruments and flutes in a sporadic “melody”. I get it, the film was trying to be progressive by not using typical music. The intention was there, sure, but the execution? More than anything it was distracting. I found myself more often than not thinking to myself, “Why?”, than actually paying attention to the film. Using music like that is a tricky line to balance on, and unfortunately, The Mend fell off.

It could have easily been the dark comedy it was meant to be. The potential was all there, the framework was present, but no one bothered to finish it. They left the frame standing alone. And frankly, that wasn’t enough to hold it up.

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