Published Nov 11, 2014Watching About Alex is like experiencing déjà vu. The movie's plot is almost identical to 1983's The Big Chill, but with mentions of Facebook, iPhones and Twitter.
Directed by Jesse Zwick (son of Oscar-winning Edward Zwick), the film follows seven college friends who unexpectedly reunite for a weekend after the title character Alex (Jason Ritter) attempts suicide (as in The Big Chill, the group's suicidal friend is also named Alex). As old crushes and rivalries are rekindled, the friends relive old memories while spending their getaway drinking wine, eating home cooked meals, dancing and smoking joints.
The weekend also involves a series of non-suicide-related problems: longtime couple Ben and Siri (Nate Parker and Maggie Grace) deal with an impending job offer that would require moving; Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) gets sceptical about Isaac (Max Minghella) bringing over his 22-year-old girlfriend (Jane Levy) to the reunion; Josh, the Ph.D candidate (Max Greenfield), is bitter about everyone else's successes. If this film could be named anything else, "Quarter-Life Crisis" would be appropriate.
What makes About Alex bearable is the chemistry between the cast, who really seem like longtime friends. Plaza, in particular, is impressive. Straying away from her typical deadpan humour and sarcasm, she delivers a well-rounded and emotional performance in which her character cries, laughs and gets embarrassed by her friends. And yet, because it feels like something we've seen before, the film ultimately tells a pretty unmemorable story.
The DVD interviews with the cast and crew about the making of About Alex reveal some forgettable facts about what went into the film's script and wardrobe with the only mildly interesting takeaway being what went into scouting the perfect lake house to shoot the movie. It's a beautiful location, one has to admit.
(Screen Media Films)