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I've watched more than half of Joe Swanberg's filmography for the last year or so and have had positive remarks to make and directorial choices on his part that I've defended for each particular film in some way. Usually, my criticism would be pretty limited and I'd focus on reviewing or praising things from a thematic standpoint, analyzing and diving into the characters' ideology or musings on the world around them.
With Alexander the Last, my glide through Swanberg's films has hit noticeable turbulence - I simply didn't care for this project. At seventy-two minutes, it almost feels twice as long as it chronicles the lives of Alex (Jess Weixler) and her sister Hellen (Amy Seimetz). Alex is a married actress, while her sister is enjoying life single, but both enjoy discussing their sexual freedoms at liberty, a common trait amongst Swanberg films. Alex's husband is a musician named Elliot (Justin Rice), and while he is nice and charming, Alex begins to realize that perhaps she rushed into things at too young of an age and should be directing her sights on a more lax, less formal life. This only begins to be more noticeable to her when she lands a new role in a play and begins to fall in lust with Jamie (Barlow Jacobs) while rehearsing for the project.
It's often difficult to say why I don't care for a film of the mumblecore subgenre in cinema. Swanberg's simplistic directorial style is present and on par with his other films, the acting - if we can call it that - is fine, the dialog is often recited in a natural manner, and the whole thing doesn't feel like a total waste of time, with its length being so short.
Alexander the Last's issue is it doesn't have characters I care about. You very well might, but even as someone who can invest in himself in several films of the mumblecore genre, I did not. Scarcely did the characters her offer any particular opinion or stance on a subject that I found stimulating or something worth discussing. Because of this, Alexander the Last doesn't seem to bear any compelling themes, and with every previous effort Swanberg, there has been an enticing exploration on certain themes.
Here, there seems to be a void, something preventing these characters from talking or saying anything of considerable interest. I have no doubt a film utilizing these actors and their specific characters could be made and made compelling (in my view, of course - I already have a strong fondness for Weixler and several of her works). However, in some ways, Swanberg almost feels like he's contradicting himself by making this film and treading closely to self-parody with Alexander the Last.
Starring: Jess Weixler, Amy Seimetz, and Barlow Jacobs. Directed by: Joe Swanberg.
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