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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Marc Guzman

The Mend (2015)

Brothers will always compete against one another. It’s just nature.

Because he’s known for pissing-off quite a lot of those around him, Mat (Josh Lucas) gets kicked out onto the streets by his girlfriend Andrea (Lucy Owen). This leads Mat to many places, the last one of which is his brother’s apartment. It just so happens that on this one fateful night that Mat happens to be lurking around New York City, his brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and his girlfriend Farrah (Mickey Sumner) are throwing a small get-together of sorts filled with booze, cigs, good jams, and most of all, weed. Mat walks in and becomes apart of the party. The next morning, however, Alan and Farrah head out to Canada for a trip they’ve been planning for quite some time, leaving Mat home, all alone, without TV, or working electricity for that matter, either. It’s just Mat and his brother’s apartment for a short awhile and then Andrea and her kid show up, using the apartment as their own source of comfort because their place is currently crawling with bed bugs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Alan comes back, clearly heart-broken and upset, which adds a bit more tension and unease for everybody in the who are setting up shop in his residence.

It’s very rare to get a movie about unlikable, self-loathing assholes who, believe it or not, stay unlikable, self-loathing assholes. So often do we get flicks that present a these characters as the kinds that we start off hating the absolute hell out of, and all of a sudden, the revelations begin to come out, the tears begin to stream, and the “sorry’s” are exchanged, and before we know it, these rather detestable human beings become completely different people. Even if it only took an-hour-and-a-half, the characters that we have learned to despise, soon become the ones that we love and want to give a hug to, rather than hold an argument or brawl with.

How I imagine the ladies always smother Josh Lucas at parties. Lucky bastard.

Not hard to imagine this is what happens to Josh Lucas at every party. Lucky bastard.

The Mend is not that movie and it’s great for that exact reason.

Sure, there is plenty else to praise and adore about writer/director John Magary’s directorial debut, but the fact that it takes these not-so-lovely characters, gives them the light of day, allows them to be who they are, and doesn’t hold back on their sometimes unforgivable actions, made me so happy to actually see play-out. Such as is the case with real life, the Mend has no real “villains” or “heroes” – everyone’s just sort of a person who makes mistakes, tries to make up for them, and will occasionally learn a lesson or two about life. However, they don’t always learn lesson, because, quite frankly, they don’t need to; they’re fine just being who they are.

And that’s one of the smarter aspects behind Magary’s craft. Though there’s an awful lot of direction in terms of how quick his camera can jump and move from one scene to another (with an over-aching score to boot), Magary’s more concerned with allowing these characters to show themselves off to the audience, rather than having him do so. This is especially evident in the first-half, where we literally thirty or so minutes stuck in this one, two-room apartment, with a party going on of hardly anybody we know. While it’s obvious that budgetary-issues may have been the cause of this, Magary makes it work because everything and everyone feels realistic.

Conversations, people, beer, and weed, come and go as they please. Sometimes, the conversations are fun, light and chock full of sensible witticisms that only artists from NYC could come up with; at other times, however, the conversations can take dark, serious turns where people begin to argue, yell at one another, and be on the brink of tears. And of course, there are people who oogle at one another one second, only to then be sucking face the next. Basically, this is a lot like many parties I’ve been to in my life and it’s great that Magary was able to work wonders with something as simple and easy-to-film as “the party-sequence”.

But, like I’ve stated before, that’s not all the Mend works well with.

At the center of all the yelling, the anger, the crying, the bleeding, the banging, and of course, the drinking, is a tale of two brothers who, despite not seeing each other a whole lot, still know one another well enough that it makes it easy for them to clash heads, as well as get along and have great times together. Though Magary likes to focus on the fact that these two brothers are different in many aspects, he also likes to point out that they’re actually a lot alike in others. While Mat may not have as much ambition with his career as Alan does, they still have problems satisfying ladies to the fullest extent, in their own respective ways; Alan may be able to socialize with more people than Mat, but at the same time, they’re still able to piss a lot people off because they always seem to voice their unwanted opinions on anything; and, well, if there is one similarity they have, through and through, they both don’t like to hear from their mom and would much rather like to not talk about her, or their dad for that matter, either.

Don't have a clue of what's going on here, but considering that they're brothers, I know that it's nothing pleasant.

Don’t have a clue of what’s going on here, but considering that they’re brothers, I know that it’s nothing pleasant.

Basically, anybody who has ever had a brother/sister, will know that this is exactly what a relationship such as that is like. And that’s why both Stephen Plunkett’s and especially, Josh Lucas’, are so good; in even the smallest details, they’re able to make us think of and see these characters in different lights than we probably did a scene or two before. While they’ve both got their problems, they’ve also got their traits that make them the least bit sympathetic, as small and as unnoticeable as they may be.

It’s probably more in the case of Lucas’ Mat, who is quite the abhorrent human specimen, but also has that “something” about him that makes you want to watch more of him. He’s lazy, rude, mean, and uninspired with just about every apple life offers him, and yet, why? Why do we want to sit and watch him interact with those around him? Why, even though he’s made it clear that he has no idea what he wants to do with his life (except for maybe a web designer), do we want him to get his shit together, pick up a job, make some money, move off of people’s couches, and live on his own? Why, despite the fact that he sorts of treats her and her son like total shit, do we want Mat to end up starting something meaningful with the lovely Andrea (played wonderfully by Lucy Owens).

Why oh why?

Well, it’s simple: He’s a character we can believe in.

Mat’s someone we could definitely meet in real life; whether it’d be at a party, roaming the streets of the city, or just by pure chance. Would we want to meet him? Probably not, but the fact is that we definitely could strike something of a conversation up with him, realize he’s a miserable person, and move on, happy that we’re done to be talking to him, but wouldn’t mind watching how he interacts with those around him. Lucas is amazing in this role because he plays up the whole aspect that Mat is indeed a dick, but also, one that knows he is and makes no apologies for it. He’s the perfect anti-hero and it’s Lucas’ role to run wild with, which isn’t something I’ve seen him do in recent time. Whether that be because his name may not carry as much weight now that he’s older, or just because he doesn’t choose to be in those huge, mainstream projects, this role makes me hope and pray that there’s more interesting roles from this guy to come.

And the same goes for Magary. Even though the final-act does get to be a bit over-the-top and showy, there’s still so much here that promises that character studies such as the Mend are still alive and well. It’s just a matter of who wants to make them, what they have to say, and whether or not the character’s stay who they are throughout, without trying to smile nice for the camera.

Because that’s how most of people in real life are anyway.

Consensus: Despite the sloppy wrap-up, the Mend still shows a new, bright talent in John Magary, as well as a bright new awakening for the career of the supremely talented Josh Lucas.

8 / 10

E-cigs aren't cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

E-cigs aren’t cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Listen Up Philip (2014)

New York writers seem so much more hot-headed than Philly ones. Thanks heavens.

After his first novel got published, hit the shelves, and was read by millions upon millions of people, Philip (Jason Schwartzman) seemed to on top of his own little world; a world in which he was the greatest, most smartest person alive. However, years later, he’s struggling. Not just to get his second novel out there and avoid “the sophomore slump”, but with his personal life. See, Philip lives with his girlfriend of two years, Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), who is supportive of his career and what he wants to do, although she can tell that he’s slipping away further and further into his own pretentious mind. This is when he meets the aging, once-hot writer by the name of Ike (Jonathan Pryce), and the two strike up something of a friendship; a friendship which the two don’t really expect to go as far as it does, but ultimately, self-serving in the way they treat their own respective egos. That proves to not just be a problem for Ashley, but also Ike’s daughter, Melanie (Krysten Ritter), who wants nearly as much, if not more, adoration from her father than Philip does.

Honestly, movies about the rich, slightly famous, and ever-pretentious lives of novelists’, just aren’t for me. Usually, it takes me about two minutes before I already want to break my TV, get on Twitter, and talk about how I hate people like the ones I just watched, and always promise to never turn into one day. It’s a promise I not only hope to keep to those around me, but myself as well.

Currently in the process of thinking of what negative comment about the meaning of life to say next.

Currently in the process of thinking of what negative comment about the meaning of life to say next.

But that’s exactly why Listen Up Philip works; though it portrays the lives of these artsy farsty, New York individuals exactly as you’d expect them to be, the movie also takes the piss out of those conventions as well.

For instance, take the main character of this film, Philip. See, while he’s insufferable, mean, cruel, and nasty to just about everyone he ever meets, the movie never really tries to make it abundantly clear that there lies a decent human being underneath. Sure, he may have the ability to love and make people happy, but mostly, it comes at his own expense and it only furthers the idea that Philip, though our main protagonist, as well as the one we’re supposed to be paying the most attention to, just isn’t a nice person and shouldn’t be viewed as such. Therefore, he also can’t really change, either. We’d like to think he can, but honestly, there’s only so far one can go until they are just viewed as annoying a-holes and they stay as such.

That said, the movie doesn’t apologize for Philip’s, or anybody else’s actions, either. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the real strength behind Listen Up Philip is that writer/director Alex Ross Perry doesn’t hold any punches back when it comes to showing us its characters, and allowing us to see them for all that they are. Like I said before in the case of Philip – while he may be a total pain in the ass, there’s still something inherently believable about him that it’s easy to find one’s self actually meeting this same kind of person on the streets of Manhattan. You’d probably regret meeting him in the first place, but the fact that you met someone like him, with the way he dresses, acts, or carries himself in casual conversations, makes the experience all the more raw and understandable.

Most of that has to do with the fact that Jason Schwartzman’s performance as Philip is very good, but it’s also because the writing is well-done, too. But it’s not just Philip who gets most of the love here, as most of this movie is a group-effort on every side of the spectrum. For instance, a bold move Perry decides to take is rather than just keeping his focus solely on Philip and Philip alone, we actually get to take some little adventures into these individual character’s lives. We not only get to see how their lives are possibly affected by Philip, but just exactly what they do to get by in this little existence that they call their lives.

Now, of course this means that some of these viewpoints are more interesting than others, but altogether, taken as a whole, they still do well for a film that could have easily fell on its affected face.

Woman with cat? Single.

Woman with cat? Single.

Probably the best subplot of the few we get, and possibly the best part of this movie, is Elizabeth Moss’ Ashley. If any of you’ve ever seen Moss as Peggy Olson, you’d know one thing is for sure: The girl can act. And while Moss isn’t doing anything quite different here as Ashley, except for the fact that she’s playing a character in modern-day America, she still knocks it out of the park as a gal who genuinely loves her boyfriend, but just doesn’t know how to handle her emotions well enough for him, so that when he does decide to get up and leave, she doesn’t get as destroyed as she expects to. There’s about 20 minutes of this movie solely dedicated to Moss and it’s compelling to watch. Not only did it make me wish we got more of her character and her side of the story, but maybe that we could have gotten a whole movie dedicated to her in general.

But while Moss’ Ashley is definitely the highlight of this movie, the downside is that the other two subplots in this movie don’t really hold up as well. For example, while Jonathan Pryce’s Ike character may be interesting on paper, doesn’t really bring much to the movie as a whole and only brings the energy away from a story that could literally go anywhere, at any given moment. Even worse is that while we do get plenty of scenes with her, Krysten Ritter’s Melanie is hardly featured nearly as much as everybody else and it’s a bit of a shame. Not just because Ritter’s a good actress (which she is), but because you can tell that maybe the movie would have been able to draw something interesting out of her character, but just didn’t give her the right time of day to do so.

In a way, when judging how it treats Ritter’s character, you could think of Listen Up Philip as Walter White. But that’s enough AMC original series’ references for now.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t always hit its mark, Listen Up Philip is still a funny, fresh, and sometimes realistic look inside the lives of a couple characters nobody would ever expect to like spending time with, yet, are somehow able to, when given the right amount of detail and development.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

One insufferable prick to the next. It's all in the facial-hair, people.

One insufferable prick to the next. It’s all in the facial-hair, people.