ABOUT ALEX: 2 ½ STARS. “leans heavily on ‘The Big Chill’ for its basic structure.”
“You know what this is like?” asks Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) in the new dramedy “About Alex.” “It’s like one of those 80s movies with a big group of people.”
Bang on Sarah. In fact, it’s exactly like ”The Big Chill” with new names and faces.
The movie begins with the title character Alex (Jason Ritter) soaking in a tub, texting a Romeo & Juliet quote– “ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”—to his friends before taking a razor blade to his wrists. The news of his suicide attempt quickly spread to his closest, although mostly estranged, friends from college.
Coming together in an upstate New York house to support and comfort their old friend each brings with them their own issues.
Sarah is insecure, stuck living in the past. Ben and Siri (Nate Parker and Maggie Grace) have been together for years, but may be torn apart by job opportunities on opposite coasts, while Isaac’s (Max Minghella) young girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy) is an unwelcome newcomer in this group while Josh’s (Max Greenfield) abrasiveness is the sand in the Vaseline that opens old wounds.
“About Alex” leans heavily on “The Big Chill” and similar college-reunion movies for its basic structure, but ups the navel-gazing quotient. These aren’t the self-obsessed Boomers of yesteryear, they’re the self-reflective Millennials of today. Faced with uncertain futures and an unsettled present. Not too different from their cinematic predecessors, but their reactions to their situation isn’t formed by the turbulent 1960s or the Vietnam War but by social media filtered through a quarter-life crisis.
Much of cultural the substance of “After Alex” is keenly observed by the engaging cast–“[People] don’t talk about anything [today], says Josh. “They just reference things. ‘I had a great weekend. I went to this wedding. It was a lot like Wedding Crashers, but meets Memento.”—but as good as the performances are, by the end of the film the story descends into melodrama which underscores the overall unoriginality of the script.