To all my college-made friends, family and otherwise: if by 27 my go-to topics are still callbacks to the good ol’ days in school, please sit me down for an intervention because my life isn’t going the way it should be. That may be the biggest takeaway of the by-the-books, indie of the month About Alex which, like many films, takes a group of wonderful and talented people and does nothing with them.
My other biggest takeaway is that my inability to take Jason Ritter seriously as an actor may have influenced my overall feelings of this film.
A bunch of friends from college who’ve been in and out of touch for a while are unceremoniously brought back together when one of their friends, Alex (Ritter), attempts to commit suicide. They all end up under the same roof and for a weekend must deal with past jealousy, attraction and insecurities all the while trying to make it about Alex feeling safe. Obviously, personalities clash and awkwardness abounds as these college friends try to figure out what friendship means in your late twenties when everyone is moving in different directions.
The problem with the film is that despite all of the drama, it feels as if it’s about nothing at all. There is no emotional takeaway, no moments of real conflict, and the script by director Jesse Zwick is self-aware but self-aware in such a way that it makes fun of our social media obsessed culture all the while trying to defend who we are in this day and age. Arguments aren’t natural; they’re introduced at the right time in the right setting to create the largest amount of drama, and apologies and conclusions don’t feel earned so much as tacked on.
I won’t say that this film isn’t watchable, however, and with the talented cast on board it would be a hard task to make this film lack any entertainment value. The cast truly saves the film – barring the aforementioned Ritter, who just doesn’t make sense to me – and it’s such a shame we couldn’t see them in a stronger vehicle. Aubrey Plaza gives a sweet performance, mixing some of her usual humor with some real vulnerability and she and Max Greenfield are a brilliant pairing. Greenfield easily is the best part of the film, even if his character is such a cynical asshole 100% of the time that it’s hard to appreciate him. He’s quick and he’s funny but the real impressive part of his performance is how you can feel the unfiltered jealousy and anger always looming beneath the words he’s saying. Nate Parker is good if a little stilted playing the stoic group leader a little too hard, while Jane Levy should have been given a much bigger role.
This is a take it or leave it film – there’s nothing to write home about, and sure I have my problems, such as the flippant use of suicide as a plot point instead of finding some other way to force these characters together – but there’s really nothing worth getting worked up about either. It’s just there. See it if you like the actors, don’t otherwise.
About Alex is out now in limited release.