“Is there gonna be a next time?”
Infuriating. Likable. Arrogant. Facetious. All of those, good and bad, accurately describe this movie. About Alex feels like a low-budget movie made by a bunch of college kids. It references Romeo and Juliet in the form of a tweet and constantly uses words the audience won’t know. Worst of all, this is a copy of The Big Chill. I hate to say it since so many others already have, but it’s indisputable. They could’ve only hoped to get away with it knowing that most of the current generation hasn’t seen, or even heard of, the Oscar nominated 1983 film (which I didn’t care much for either). Still, I can see myself watching it again because of the great cast. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure you know is bad but won’t mind visiting again, just like the characters in the movie do with each other.
Jason Ritter plays the depressed Alex. He doesn’t necessarily want to end his life, but just wants to know that people are there for him. Alex sends the already mentioned tweet out, a forced plot point if there ever was one, and one by one his friends call each other to say what has happened. Ben (Nate Parker) calls Josh (Max Greenfield as the only memorable character), and so on and so forth. Joining Ben to check on Alex is Siri (Maggie Grace). Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) comes along and can’t help but hook up with the cynical Josh, although we don’t know why. And then there’s Isaac (Max Minghella) whose girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy) conveniently works for a crisis hotline.
That’s a poor description of characters because their introductions are just as lackluster. Most movies try to pack an initial punch, but this has one of the worst first thirds I’ve seen in a long time. It’s titled About Alex, yet he only sparingly speaks twice in the first twenty minutes, and not until the end do we sympathize with his character at all. He even starts to do a voiceover at thirty minutes in. I repeat…THIRTY MINUTES IN. It hinders the narrative, changes the tone, and altogether is the work of an amateur. The movie is better than it ever deserves to be.
Jesse Zwick, the director and writer, doesn’t know what to do with his talented ensemble. Purely going off of the script, Zwick is a smart guy who thinks he is a lot smarter than he really is. He never plays to the audience and is so focused on putting a piece of himself into every character and moment that nothing really feels genuine. However, I loved the actors, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find a better collection of young talent in recent films. It’s just a shame that their talent is so underutilized. Everything boils down to making a version of The Big Chill where Alex lives, rather than dying after attempting suicide in literally the exact same way in the old film. For heaven’s sake, they don’t even bother to change the character’s name. This is a pronounced, careless forgery.
If you’re able to, stick with the movie. It’s not enjoyable until the halfway mark but at that point it tends to let go and inject a few pleasant scenes. Zwick’s only worthwhile directorial moment comes during a table scene that finally addresses the issues at hand and balances all of the characters. As a whole, there is just way too much that doesn’t make sense. Six people getting violently high off of a tiny joint? Yeah right. A seemingly endless house that you can hear your friends having sex through paper-thin walls? Okay, maybe that one. Overall though, About Alex is never about Alex, or the rest of the characters. I know I’ll stumble upon it again because I like the cast, but it’ll be hard to not imagine how much better it could have been in an experienced, selfless filmmaker’s hands. Or if it had just not been made at all.
“The only thing I hate more than the present is nostalgia for the past.”
Rating: 1.5 out of 5