There are themes in film are unavoidably going to get recycled from generation to generation, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to make for a half decent movie. "About Alex" which reunites a bunch of old college friends after one of them tries to take his own life is a movie that we have seen several times before but it still resonates thanks to some honest writing and solid performances.
It's been years since these friends (Nate Parker, Maggie Grace, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella and Max Greenfield) have been together, but after word gets out of their friend Alex (Jason Ritter) trying to take his own life, they decide it's time to rally the troops and check in on one of their own. They try to keep it light, but this reunion forces them all to take stock in their lives and re-examine their own existence as old disagreements and passions get reignited in a swirl of wine, college grade drugs and fantastic food as weekend at the old cottage proves to be more than any of them bargained for as they look forward into the rest of their adult lives.
More or less the perfect marriage of "The Big Chill" and "St Elmo's Fire"; "About Alex" isn't tackling any motifs that are all that new, but thanks to some solid direction & writing with a cast that embraced the material this ends up being a piece that while unspectacular still works for what it is.
It certainly isn't new, but writer/director Jesse Zwick hits a vein of earnest emotion that carries this project perhaps a little farther than it should have. The narrative flows at a decent pace as we gather up all these old friends from all across the country to reconvene at their old college cottage hangout. Zwick shoots it well and takes care not to hit us over the head with any hackneyed plot points or tired tropes and lets the action unfold in a way that feels natural and not at all forced as there isn't a contrived desire to confront their friend Alex on why he tried to kill himself, they just want to make sure that he is OK. There were enough solid performances in this film to be able to sell the necessary emotion and not make it feel unnatural.
Jason Ritter as our title character fits the bill quite well as the emotionally fragile but still kind of funny Alex who doesn't necessarily pull focus from the rest of the friends but is still a key cog in the narrative. The couple of Nate Parker and Maggie Grace at a crossroads in their college romance carry the bulk of the load and make for the perfect example of the struggles that we all face in our early to mid 30's when life has a tendency to force us to make course corrections in our lives. Aubrey Plaza manages to tone down her dead pan comedy styling's to make her overworked yet unsatisfied professional woman work while Max Minghella is fine as the wunderkind business mogul. Sadly only Max Greenfeld as the abrupt and acerbic best friend felt out of place and forced.
While it is hardly a vital piece of cinema, "About Alex" resonates in just the right spots for anyone who has ever felt a little lost and looking for some direction in their lives.
3 out of 5 stars.
"About Alex" opens exclusively in theatres in Toronto tomorrow, but also nationwide via all VOD platforms.