bwolo’s review published on Letterboxd :
The standard-bearer for movies in the category of "directed by people who follow me on Twitter"
But seriously, a few notes -
-Cycles through a rolodex of scenarios, any one of which could have supported a more conventional movie. (When Josh Lucas settled into the empty apartment, I thought, "oh, this is what the movie is"—nah.) John Magary is like a fickle deity, shifting and shuffling his creations into different situations for his own amusement. This is the movie's energy source—what makes it "exciting," to use a term belittled by one of Magary's characters (metatextually daring reviewers not to use it)—but the chaos is controlled enough that the swerves don't feel arbitrary.
-A while back, Judd Apatow caught flak on movie twitter ("caught flak"—as if he would notice or care) for making some comment about how he'd enjoy Cassavetes movies more if they had more jokes. I didn't entirely disagree, and I bet Magary wouldn't have, either. If you need a three-word elevator pitch for The Mend, "Cassavetes with jokes" wouldn't be a bad one. A lot of new indies have been casually compared to Cassavetes, and that usually just means they're partly improvised—which is of course a famous canard about Cassavetes, that he didn't use scripts. But Magary understands that to really capture the complex, heightened humanity that Cassavetes was after, you're better off paying strict attention to language, rather than just letting actors say whatever.
-I don't like going to parties, but I do love good party scenes in movies. What's up with that? I guess it's the same principle that allows you to enjoy a chase or a fight on screen, things you want to avoid in real life. The Mend's party scene—not technically the opening, but performing a 2001-cavemen-prologue type of function—strikes a tone genial but tense. For all the movie's tonal shifts, that core yin-yang of camaraderie and anxiety remains more or less consistent.
-I appreciate Magary's lack of insistence. He takes a detached view of intense people. There are no backstory-filling monologues. The characters are who they are and behave how they behave, without much dramaturgy or explanation.
-Magary wraps things up with, basically, a restoration of the status quo, which feels sort of radical in today's environment of "character arcs." Everyone ends up pretty much where they started. You don't have to put your characters on a "journey."