ABOUT ALEX – TFF 2014 Movie Review
Spotlight..•..96 min...•..Drama, Friendship, Relationships
World Premiere: April 17, 2014
WRITER / DIRECTOR: .Jesse Zwick
Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, Jane Levy
Website..•..Facebook..•..@aboutalexmovie..•..ABOUT ALEX – TFF 2014
SYNOPSIS: A circle of twenty-something friends reunite for a weekend away after one of them suffers an emotional breakdown. Despite the group’s best efforts to keep it light and enjoy themselves, a tinderbox of old jealousies, unrequited love, and widening political differences leads to an explosion that, coupled with the flammable combination of drugs, wine, and risotto, cannot be contained. An honest appraisal of adult friendship for our current social media moment, About Alex is a lighthearted look at the struggles of a generation that has it all—and wants more.
Jesse Zwick’s feature-film directorial and screenwriting debut About Alex is Gen Y’s for-us-by-us meditation on Millennials’ malaise and relationships in the digital era, with an unrelentingly optimistic point-of-view. A paragon of Gen-Y post-collegiate disillusionment, About Alex is a special hybrid of St. Elmo’s Fire and The Big Chill—an homage to classics of yesteryear for today’s twenty-somethings to call our own.
Starring Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, and Jane Levy, About Alex explores Gen-Y camaraderie, alienation, and anxiety in an easily accessible (and mostly non-judgmental) way. The film hits home for mid-to-late 20-/early 30-somethings who are mired in student debt, lonely, unhappy in their postgrad career choices, and/or not amused by today’s dating dos-and-don’ts—and all of any age who have received one of those phone calls (of the Big Chill or About Alex variety).
About Alex’s primary strengths are its profound and witty dialogue—which frequently serves to lighten the film’s darker moments—and strong performances by its talented cast. Greenfield’s egocentric misanthrope Josh gets many of the film’s best lines, ranging from hostile to humorous, and nearly always quotable. [Sarah (Plaza): “Can you please do something useful?” / Josh (Greenfield): “This joint isn’t going to roll itself.”] As unhappy attorney Sarah, Plaza inspirationally depicts the sort of personal growth that only comes from being honest with yourself (and others) about yourself. And as the reunion’s impetus Alex, Ritter candidly and poignantly embodies an all-too-common social anxiety: the crippling fear that even one’s best friends never really liked them.
Some will criticize About Alex for being “like” The Big Chill—and it’s certainly true that the film makes many references to the 1983 classic, from its premise, character names (Alex, Sarah) and types (an unhappy, lonely lawyer; a younger, out-of-place girlfriend with quasi-profound insight) and Jeff Goldblum jokes, to mockery of passé music selections, a group dance scene, and an epic round of puff-puff-pass. But so what? One of many reasons The Big Chill is a classic is because its themes are timeless, and About Alex merely offers an update—focusing in particular on how modern communication methods, which frequently disconnect the acts of speaking and listening (in place and/or time), affect interpersonal connections. We speak without having an intended listener; we ignore with the push of a button. Is it any wonder then that it’s so easy to feel isolated even from those ‘closest’ to us? Before Alex reunited them, The Big Chill’s characters were miles apart (literally and figuratively), and they knew it. About Alex’s characters had no such conscious awareness. They’re divided but blinded by social media’s façade of intimacy—as far too many of us are. About Alex is precisely the kind of movie we need in today’s me-centric world of digital interaction, where more direct communication is often considered unduly aggressive. It makes you want to gather your friends and hug them tight—actually, not virtually.
About Alex is awkward and uncomfortable at times, laugh-out-loud funny at others, and always genuine. An impressive debut by any standard, I can’t wait to see what Jesse Zwick (and the members of this cast) do next.
Screen Media Films will day-and-date release About Alex in theaters/VOD on August 8, 2014.
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TFF 2014 coverage!
Featured Image: © 2014 Jami Saunders / Footprint Features
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