To preface this review, I’d like to just say that this review focuses entirely on the cast and writer/director, as that’s really what makes this film so phenomenal. It tackles a ton of issues about friendship and the inevitability that people grow apart. It’s an unfortunate part of life, but people are always quick to assure you that you’ll stay in-touch and meet new people. Why can’t we stay close with our friends? Why do we have to grow up and follow that stupid “tradition”? These are questions I’ve been asking myself a lot these days, especially with college only a week away.
It’s been years since college ended and friends went their separate ways. For Alex (Jason Ritter), moving on was tough because he really found his friends in college and they meant a great deal more to him than they ever could imagine. As time went on, everyone started growing apart and it seemed like only Alex wanted things to go back to normal for a bit. Feeling alone and like he has no one, Alex decides to commit suicide one night, but ultimately ends up failing. Because of this, all of his close friends get the call and head out to his house to go check up on him.
Ben (Nate Parker) and Siri (Maggie Grace) show up first, after having yet another discussion about their future. Josh (Max Greenfield), the hyper-intelligent asshole, shows up next and immediately wants to confront the reality of why they’re all going and why it’s all crap. Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) arrives and seems to be the most upset and immediately goes back to fighting with Josh, despite a history between the two. The last to arrive is Isaac (Max Minghella), a successful businessman who decided it was a good idea to bring his new girlfriend, Kate (Jane Levy). Once they’re all under the same roof again and are with Alex, nostalgia kicks in and the gang is back together again, but the trip isn’t without its ups and downs as the gang reconnects.
About Alex joins together a group of post-college students after a friends attempted suicide and the result is a confusing weekend, as friendships, relationships, and life are tested. Though it’s been compared to The Big Chill, I’ve not seen that film and all I can say is that this film really hit something within me, enough so that it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not sure whether or not it was the idea of inclusion, or the concept of growing up and apart from the friends you’d thought that you’d have forever. It’s frightening and slightly depressing to think about, yet I’m about to go off to college and can’t help but think about what that means for the friends of mine who are also going their separate ways. No matter your scenario, you’ll find pieces of yourself within these flawed characters and maybe it’s not too late to change how you are in the future.
Jason Ritter is easily the most identifiable type of character in this film, not because of his attempted suicide, but because the thoughts that were in his head beforehand. He seemed to be the only one who cared about keeping everyone in-touch and loneliness consumed him and he got to a point where he would do anything to see the people he cared for and loved again. Ritter plays the character perfectly, hitting every emotional nail right on the head and the undertones in his voice and in his eyes are soul-crushing. Max Greenfield plays the sort-of antithesis to Ritter, as his character is burdened by realism and his own freakish intellect that his him functioning above others. He’s an asshole, he’s immature, but he also knows that he’s different and the friends around him are the only one’s that understand him and tolerate him. For as much as he jokes and crosses the line, Greenfield makes it perfectly clear that this is an emotionally unstable character who resorts to the worst of habits, in order to express his constant frustration.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Aubrey Plaza play so against her type and it’s because of that, that I think this may be her best performance. She’s not dating anyone, yet she gets with Josh and has feelings for Isaac. She’s also the caretaker of the group, checking in on everyone and making sure that everyone eats and has what they need. Her love for her friends is so painfully evident, yet it’s she too that needs some of that love and she doesn’t always get it. She knows what’s best for her, but she also gets caught up in what’s familiar. Max Minghella, on the other-hand, is unsure of what he wants, hence why he brought his new girlfriend along with him. He’s frightened of his new life and choices and takes comfort in the past and in the presence of his friends. He’s the most drastically different in the group, only making him work that much harder to keep up with them. Minghella mixes smartass with uncertainty, easily showing how great of an actor he can be.
I haven’t seen much of Nate Parker, but I really hope he’s one that finds great success because he’s extraordinary here. He’s without a doubt the most “mature” of the group and he’s constantly dealing with some tough life choices that are weighing on his mind. He can’t write and he finds himself getting further away from the people he loves. He wears his heart on his sleeve and though he doesn’t do, or say as much as the others, he owns every moment of his screen-time with his captivating range. I was also surprised by Maggie Grace, who turns in a wonderful performance as a fragile woman who seems to have a lot going askew in her life. Her world could change in an instant, but her constant fear of losing Parker is always evident and what makes her recoil in times of celebration. She, like everyone else, makes mistakes and feels the burden of reality and Grace handles her character’s emotions so well that you do start to feel for her and though she messes up, you sort of get where she’s coming from.
Writer/Director Jesse Zwick has really created something profound with his first film. Zwick manages to find a balance of humor and heartache, against a morbid backdrop that lingers throughout the film. The familiarity of the characters is astounding and though we don’t know them, we feel like we do and we get the sense that we’re a lot like them too. There is a lot that’s said about this new generation and all of the influences that are a part of it and the commentary is more, or less true. In a time of technology, we become less present in the lives of our friends, even though the technology is there to help us keep in touch. Times change, people get older, and sometimes they drift apart, despite the fact that they still care for one another. It’s incredibly sad that it takes tragedy to bring people together and to make them realize how much they love one another, but it’s a part of that grim reality that makes this film so effective.
About Alex hit me like a train and sent my feelings into overload because of that sense of reality it never stops exhibiting. I’m not even technically in college yet, but I have an understanding of this situation and I think the beauty of this film, is that you can apply it to almost any setting. If anything, I think that it’s a striking commentary on how we behave and see the world, but also about how we are too reluctant to show how we really feel and reach out to the ones we need. Everyone is scared in their lives, so rather than hiding that, we should be embracing one another and expressing ourselves, knowing that we really aren’t alone. This film, these performances, and this new filmmaker have done a magnificent job of creating a film with heart that really stands out among all the greats this year.
About Alex Trailer