Dir/scr: Jesse Zwick. US. 2014. 96mins
The very lack of originality that defines writer/director Jesse Zwick’s debut film About Alex is smartly noted on screen and put to one side as his cutely dysfunctional bunch of thirtysomething former college friends gather to bond, bicker and booze after Alex (Jason Ritter’s title character) attempts to take his own life.
The discussions – and lingering sexual tensions – are all rather familiar, but then About Alex isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, instead it simply makes the most of Zwick’s gently witty script.
A knowing and playful wit and humour helps put the film into a different bracket that the usual ‘best friends get together’ film, with one character noting that they are gathered together like “one of those ‘80s movies” (such as The Big Chill) while there is simply not getting away from the fact that Max Greenfield plays his motor-mouth, sarcastic, flannel-wearing academic Josh just like a young Jeff Goldblum.
There are some recognisable faces amongst the engaging cast, and while the drama is all relatively modest the film has some nice quirks and a real sense of warmth and compassion. Plus the film counts Edward Zwick (father of…) amongst the executive producer credits.
The film opens with Alex’s attempted suicide in the bathtub at his remote – and rather idyllic – house, as he clings onto an article one of his friends wrote about college friends for the New Yorker and sends out a cryptic text before dropping his mobile into the bath.
Once word gets out, the old friends make their way to his house. Sarah (a nicely neurotic Aubrey Plaza) insists he shouldn’t be left alone; Josh reckons they should debate the suicide right out with Alex; longtime couple Ben and Siri (Nate Parker and Maggie Grace) get on with practical cleaning up, and to all of their bemusement Isaac (Max Minghella) arrives with his 22 year-old girlfriend (Jane Levy).
While Alex’s suicide attempt is the catalyst for their reunion, things speedily move on as they various worries and issues facing the group are revealed and debated (as booze and weed flows) and it is clear that while they all appreciate each other’s company there are still some deep-rooted issues to be resolved.
The discussions – and lingering sexual tensions – are all rather familiar, but then About Alex isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, instead it simply makes the most of Zwick’s gently witty script and allows a strong cast to bring out the depths of their varied characters. The film is nicely shot and makes the most of its delightful locations, with Aubrey Plaza, Nate Parker and Max Greenfield especially making the most of their nicely drawn characters.
Production companies: Footprint Features, Bedford Falls Company
International sales: WME Entertainment, www.wmeentertainment.com
Producer: Adam Saunders
Executive producers: Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Cinematography: Andre Lascaris
Editor: Garret Price
Production designer: Alex Brook Lynn
Music: Joel P. West
Main cast: Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Jane Levy, Max Minghella, Nate Parker, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Ritter