About Alex, the debut feature from Jesse Zwick (son of director/producer Ed Zwick), is a huge disappointment. The talented and funny cast, featuring New Girl’s Max Greenfield and Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, is given very little to work with in terms of direction, dialogue and story. Cliché after cliché unfold with a group of twenty-somethings, each of whom is disaffected and bored with their jobs (they want to be doing something more, damn it, making art instead of working at menial desk jobs!), and whose love lives and friendships are intertwined and complicated. And there’s a possible accidental pregnancy lurking in the wings. You know, just like real life.
They’ve all gathered at a house somewhere in upstate New York after the titular character’s attempted suicide to ponder, pontificate and reminisce. Alex wasn’t trying very hard, though, sending out a final tweet—“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.” Get it? Even this generation’s suicides are sarcastic. Except they’re actually not, and the film pretends to be a lot funnier and smarter than it actually is. Max Greenfield plays Josh, who’s sort of like New Girl’s Schmidt, except even more of a dick. He’s a curmudgeonly grad student who still occasionally sleeps with Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), an aspiring chef who’s still in love with the preppy Isaac (Max Minghella), who brought his new, younger girlfriend to the gathering. Ben and Siri (get it?) are a couple who go through their own issues along the way, and clearly the copious amount of wine and weed the group consumes isn’t helping anything.
But what about Alex, anyway? Apparently you can attempt suicide and be released on your own recognizance the next day to go back to your house in the woods and hang out with your friends and that’s just totally fine. It does give you a chance to listen to some old records that you naturally bought at a garage sale. Of course, Schmidt/Josh has something to say about each one: Bruce Springsteen (“I don’t trust anyone who cares that deeply about New Jersey”), Arcade Fire (“too Canadian.”) Get it? Those are actually some of the few funny lines of the film, at least to music lovers.
Ultimately, the portrayals in About Alex are all caricatures that don’t really ring true. There are exceptions, but the fact that each character has a steady supply of anti-anxiety medication, the pre-meditated snark and that fist fight near the end—it all yields a very Big Chill 2.0 vibe … minus most of the positive attributes of that Baby Boomer classic.
Director: Jesse Zwick
Writer: Jesse Zwick
Starring: Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, Maggie Grace
Release Date: Aug. 8, 2014