About Alex (2014) Poster

(2014)

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5/10
Nice Looking Unimaginative Drama/Audition
meaninglessbark23 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The worst thing about About Alex is that it's not interesting. The film is pretty much like any other drama dealing with this sort of mid- young life crisis scenario.

The film looks great and is fairly well acted. The script is unimaginative and cringe inducing, but it's now worse that what one encounters on TV dramas when Things Get Serious. If you're looking for a mindless drama full of good looking people, sets, and locations About Alex would be an OK choice.

The characters are all clichés and particularly seem to be the sort of people a young writer trying to be serious comes up with. The characters are mostly horrible people, the sort you enjoy seeing die in a slasher film. (Spoiler alert: That sadly doesn't happen.)

The most interesting character is Alex, the guy whose attempted suicide is the catalyst for the story (though "story" is a bit of a stretch). Watching Alex's self centered, shallow friends complain and posture made me wonder if he'd had better friends would Alex have ever been in a suicidal state.
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4/10
Guy attempts suicide, his narcissistic buddies self indulgently deal with their own "problems"
ArchonCinemaReviews15 August 2014
Five college friends and a plus one physically come together to watch a friend after he tries to commit suicide but in all other regards they spend the majority of the weekend egocentrically delving into their own unresolved self-generated baggage.

It is hard for a film, when it's basically a remake pretending not to be because this time the suicide victim isn't a victim but an attemptee but is hypocritically self-aware and gives homage to its predecessor, to do what it wants authentically without resembling a rip-off. And, fair warning, I have seen The Big Chill, and unintentionally watched it again a week before watching About Alex.

From the get-go you know to expect self-indulgent intellectualisms but About Alex is nothing but pretentious ramblings, giving it a loathsome hipsterly quality. The atmosphere of the entire movie is bordering on combative as they angrily banter through the tension. Maybe this was a deliberate decision from writer/director Jesse Zwick; to put a mirror to the disjointed self absorbed nature of the generation and act as a representation and critique of the Facebook age. One would think that people coming together to help another through the days immediately following a suicide attempt would be kind and loving but for the most of the movie you forget they were even friends. The acting is good and roles fully formed, of which Jane Levy and Max Greenfield are most successful, but they can not save their faulted characters.

The directing and composition of shots was uninspired, average, and literal. There is an art to telling a story without having it plainly done with the characters' dialogue and that is completely missing from About Alex. This is evident from the very beginning when Zwick decides to waste five minutes showing: the suicide attempt, everyone getting the call about the suicide attempt and making their arrangements to go and deal with the suicide attempt. Instead he could have saved five minutes, had everyone somberly encounter one another, leaving the dialogue as-is where the true subject for being together is implied and pussyfooted around and then cut to the one friend left at the cabin as he tries to clean the bloodstained bathtub. All conversations between two characters are over the shoulder framed close-ups that cut back and forth as they talk to one another.

I wanted to like this movie, the trailer had me so hopeful and the cast is sublime but About Alex is masturbatory and decidedly not The Big Chill of our generation.

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1/10
Blatant Plagiarism
contactsteverogers1 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This movie, About Alex, is such a copy/rip-off of The Big Chill, I honestly don't know how the Screen Writers Guild allows Jesse Zwick to pass this off as an original screenplay. Obviously, he changed the characters and dialog to update to the 21st century, but he has stolen outright so many elements from The Big Chill that there should at least be an acknowledgment, "Based on the Motion Picture..." like there are on other movies that rework original ideas for modern movies (e.g. The Evil Dead).

In The Big Chill, the character who commits suicide and inspires the reunion is Alex; in this version, there is also a suicidal character named Alex, though he is unsuccessful in his suicide. One of the characters in About Alex has a younger girlfriend not originally part of the group and she feels awkward around the others - there is a similar character in The Big Chill. Two of the characters hook up after many years, there is an obligatory dance sequence, a pot smoking scene, etc. All of this is straight out of The Big Chill.

At one point in About Alex, Aubrey Plaza says something to the effect of "This is like one of those movies in the 80s...". I've seen this same contrivance in other movies used as some sort of way to excuse the fact that the filmmakers have borrowed heavily from an earlier work, but personally I don't believe this is a way out from plagiarism. I know people like to quote, "plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery," but is is still plagiarism.

Maybe this would have been somewhat excusable if writer/director Zwick actually had something interesting to say and was able to formulate a movie that actually spoke to people. But instead, he just goes through the predictable motions of creating characters that are so redundant that they are now virtually stereotypes (the suicidal aspiring actor, the blocked writer, etc.) and having them speak a lot of trite "socially pertinent" conversation. I get the impression Zwick just made a list of all the so-called relevant issues of today's 20/30-somethings - e.g. technology, anti-depressants, lack of good pop music - and then planned his scenes accordingly. The end result is a script that is lazy and tepid and does nothing to stand out from all the other movies dealing with these same issues.
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5/10
Close, but no cigar
atticdramatics24 May 2018
About Alex is mainly just two hours too many to spend with characters who aren't compelling and generally act like selfish jerks. Our title character is pushed to the background and probably has the least lines of anyone. It's almost hilarious how swept aside and incidental the character Alex is in a movie called "About Alex." One gets the impression that we're meant to feel bad for him, but he's still more of a plot device than a person with a complex, nuanced personality. Most of the film dwells on the ridiculous neuroses of the other characters, which lack authenticity or originality of any kind. Drama that would be better suited to a TV sitcom than a feature length movie. Yes, the fumbling discomfort of the characters as they try to deal with Alex's attempt is something we can all sympathize with, but this is the beginning and the end of my emotional participation in this story. I have a major weakness for quirky suicide movies, but it's so important for the audience to feel something for this to work at all as the basis for a movie. Suicide is a serious subject, which About Alex seems to grasp. Although the act itself is sensationalized, it is treated with some reverence. Looking at suicide through a bizarre filter can make it easier to break down, accept, understand, but I think a strong connection between the audience and the victim is key for this to work. Overall, About Alex is pseudo-philosophical, tepid and boring. It doesn't hit the right notes emotionally and it's simply not warm enough, intimate enough, close enough. A film with a similar premise, which although not perfect itself, comes nearer to accomplishing what About Alex seems to be striving for, is A Beautiful Now. My advice is to avoid About Alex like the plague, and check that out instead; at least A Beautiful Now is interesting.
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7/10
Another Big Chill
SnoopyStyle2 July 2016
Alex (Jason Ritter) attempts to kill himself in his family home. His college friends gather to visit him. Ben (Nate Parker) and Siri (Maggie Grace) are married and facing difficult issues. Josh (Max Greenfield) is the malcontent who wants to confront Alex about his suicide attempt. Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) is tired of her job. Isaac (Max Minghella) brings his young girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy) who used to work for him.

This is basically a reworking of The Big Chill with some interesting actors from the new generation. I really don't want take away points for copying by new filmmaker Jesse Zwick. The biggest change is the lack of popular music. Nobody is dancing with their breakfast in this one. The best aspect is someone like Plaza stretching out a little. She shows that she can be a very compelling dramatic actress. This has some of my favorite actors around in a familiar movie setting.
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8/10
'About Alex' is a Dream!
ClaytonDavis21 June 2014
Large ensembles have the opportunity to say different things from different characters. Before screening at Tribeca, many were calling this "our generation's" Big Chill from 1984, which was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture. While there are obvious similarities in the number of people who are present, and themes surrounding love and death, newcomer Jesse Zwick, son of producer/director Edward Zwick, pours his heart and soul into each frame and reinvents a masterful motion picture. About Alex is a raw and beautiful morality piece about where the late twenty- somethings are presently. I loved nearly every second.

About Alex tells the story of seven friends who reunite over a three-day weekend after one of them attempts suicide. As the friends take shifts to watch their unpredictable old friend Alex, past and new feelings come to the surface.

An all-star is assembled that includes Aubrey Plaza (NBC's "Park and Recreation"), Maggie Grace (Taken), Max Minghella (The Social Network), Nate Parker (Arbitrage), Jason Ritter (Freddy vs. Jason), Max Greenfield (FOX's "New Girl"), and Jane Levy (ABC's "Suburgatory"). Each one of the actor's know their parts, actions, motivations, and completely immerse themselves in the characters. In particular, the standouts include Greenfield, who continues to steal every frame, from every show or film he's in, and Plaza, who takes on a new departure for herself and succeeds.

Jesse Zwick, for his first writing and directorial feature, shows much promise of what could be an elaborate career. He handles his scenes with firm hands and a watchful eye of what he chooses to show and not show the viewer. He allows the surroundings, both inside and outside, become two new characters for the audience to embrace. Everything put together in About Alex is simply impressive.

There are some technical hiccups that the film suffers from. Choices made by the film's editor doesn't smoothly transition from one scene to the other. As independent films go, the film stands tall on its own merits but I would have liked a more polished final product.

All in all, About Alex is an absolute dream. Full of laughs and tears, the film raises the bar for this type of genre. It's a thoughtful piece that will have admirers for years to come. It's the best cast ensemble seen this year and of the Tribeca Film Festival.
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8/10
Loved it!
GoldieCharm11 August 2014
I just saw this movie and I am really hoping that many people will go see it. While I found myself comparing it to the Big Chill in several spots, the characters do a good job at making it their own. The casting is incredible. I was fully immersed in the story, hoping for certain outcomes in the character's lives, feeling deeply for some, finding comedic relief in others. Being that the attempted suicide by one member of this group of friends is at the heart of this "reunion", I have to applaud Jesse Zwick for not only taking it on, but for also not shying away from showing the many layers of human emotion that surround it ... the misunderstandings, outrage, fear and blame, guilt, and above all love and forgiveness, and hopefully different choices that can be made as an outcome. Good job to the new director/screen writer. You had me at hello.
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5/10
Weak and Cliched
dansview24 September 2018
Yes it is basically a remake of The Big Chill, but different in the sense that these people are younger than those characters. Not only that, the actors look even younger than they are supposed to be. Well, another depiction of Godless millennials who don't believe in anything, and fall apart due to the petty, neurotic emptiness of their lives. But movie people write about what they know, so don't be surprised. Having said that, the physical setting is beautiful, the acting is genuine and snappy, and the suicide theme is not milked too hard. Also, it does not have an obnoxious Greatest Hits of an era soundtrack like that other movie had. Thankfully. They could have created more original, complex, and nuanced characters than these cliched ones. But I guess they wanted to keep it light. No one manufactures anything or fixes anything. They all work in service and money related professions. No one served in the military or speaks of volunteer work or religion, although one gal works at a suicide prevention center. Although they were too self-absorbed to notice the warning signs that their friend was in trouble, they were caring enough to show up to support him later. The worst mistake of the script was not giving us a bit more back story on why our attempted suicide guy was so unhappy.
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5/10
Missed opportunity
stills-622 December 2015
It hits all the right issues about modern isolation and the nature of friendship, but it hits on them only tangentially and without any depth. And it doesn't really use its theme to its advantage very well. If there's one very positive thing I can say about this movie it's that once a scene gets going it starts to really get going. And then the scene ends way too soon and we're left with a sense of incompleteness. It's as if the director didn't want the players to do too much "acting" to get in the way.

The set-up is weakly explained, the relationship dynamics are barely believable, and the resolution is too neatly tied up. But if you like some of the actors, it will be a pleasant if not terribly worthwhile experience. Overall, it was a missed opportunity to explore how technological progress has affected how we make and sustain friendships in a post-Big Chill world.
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5/10
The Lesser Chill
crispin_1312 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I would like to start by saying that the dialogue was—for the most part—well written, the characters were good, and the actors were really good. It sounds like a good movie right? Well, it would have been if it hadn't all been done before. I mean REALLY ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE.

The Big Chill was the aftermath of a suicide in a group of college friends. The same thing here except he didn't succeed. Both characters are even named Alex! Several of the characters are carbon copies of Big Chill characters. One of the characters in About Alex is SO similar to a character in The Big Chill that they even dressed him the same right down to the horn rimmed glasses and THEN went out and found the actor that most resembled the original—Jeff Goldblum —cast member!! It was laughable! I've never experienced anything like this before. Some of the conversations were direct lifts as well regarding music of eras past. One cast member even refers to movies from the eighties. Unbelievable! The only way to logically explain it is that someone (the writer? the director?) wanted to remake The Big Chill but couldn't get the rights. So the changed as much as they had to for legal reasons. The movie closes with a flashback of the group meeting for the first time. Lawrence Kasdan also fined this scene but cut it from his film. I found myself enjoying that because I had always wanted to see that scene in The Big Chill. By the time I reached the end, the two were almost interchangeable. Oh, one more thing, the group shot at the end of About Alex i the same as the group shot on the cover of the video box for The Big Chill. Unreal.
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8/10
A thoughtful, timely homage to The Big Chill
ludichrisallen6 October 2020
As other reviewers have mentioned, the obvious, this is such an homage to The Big Chill that it's basically a remake. And it is SO well done! The casting is perfect, the dialogue is every bit as snappy and sharp as the original. The updates for millennials are pitch perfect. Characters complaining about our current obsession with documenting every moment instead of LIVING every moment. Our habit of referencing movies and tv shows to explain experiences and feelings...instead of actually experiencing them and describing them with...words. The writer, a Jesse Zwick, has nailed the failures, idiosyncrasies and benefits of our digital age without ever coming across as preachy or self indulgent. He observes his characters (He observes all of US) without judgement. His touch is just light enough to avoid cheesy sentimentality. Imagine handling an attempted suicide with such skill and wit. He takes us along as he imagines what might have happened if Alex, played by Kevin Costner's wrists in the original, had lived. He fleshes out the awkwardness, guilt, anger, relief that Alex's friends might have felt in the days immediately following the suicide attempt . This script could have gone so wrong. It went so right. This was Jesse Zwick's first produced script and his directorial debut. Attention must be paid. I can't wait to see what else this guy has up his sleeve.

I have no complaints! I am thrilled that the director chose to not make a wall to wall "greatest hits of THAT moment" soundtrack. It would have been so easy to do and would have hit us all squarely in the feels, but choosing to keep the sound spare was a braver move. He let the writing stand on its own, and it works!

The Big Chill came out when I was in high school. I am NOT a millennial, yet I did relate to many of the issues raised in the film. My friends and I went to see the film several times in the theater and then bought the damned soundtrack. I remember us cruising around our small town blasting that soundtrack from the crappy stereo system in our equally crappy cars. Freedom! One might expect that someone with such deep seated, sweet memories of the original might hate this remake/homage. They would be wrong. I loved it.

That small town was in New Jersey. My memories and love of the state are just as strong as Bruce Springsteen's, though I moved away years ago. But as Josh says in one of his many quotable lines, "Never trust anyone who is that passionate about the state of New Jersey." He's not wrong; I'm an unrepentant Jersey Girl and I expect my affection for this movie will be as lasting (and irrational) as my love for my home state.

Give this movie a chance. If you loved the Big Chill, you will love this too.
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7/10
A group of college friends congregate after one of their friends attempt suicide.
Amari-Sali15 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Trigger Warning(s): Suicide topics and imagery

It is very weird to see a film about suicide. If just because, to a certain degree, it forces you to realize how odd of a subject it is to approach. Like in the film, we watch Jason Ritter's character, post- suicide attempt, gain this weird peaceful look. A look which reminds you that suicide is caused by many things, but part of the reason comes from a call for help unanswered. Sometimes by friends or even a higher power. Leading to the question: is this film worth seeing or perhaps it should be skipped?

Characters & Story

After having a bit of a downward spiral due to finances, among other things, Alex (Jason Ritter) decided to slit his wrists. Something he seemed to regret doing for he calls an ambulance for himself, as well as his friend Ben (Nate Parker) (1) who orchestrates a meeting of all of Alex's old friends. This includes Josh (Max Greenfield), a bitter PHD candidate who seems to hate everything and everyone, though probably fears his own company for too long; Siri (Maggie Grace) who is Ben's current girlfriend, the girl Josh wanted before Ben met her; Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), who is an attorney who Josh messed around with since he couldn't have Siri; Isaac (Max Minghella) who is the richest of the group and often clashes with Josh; and then, focusing on Ben, Ben is the one who introduced Alex to everyone and seems to be Alex's rock. Though not when he was in a deep need for his friendship.

Leading us on what may feel like a familiar journey of college friends having a reunion, thanks to tragedy, in which their romantic entanglements come out; a lot of sex and drama happens; and ultimately you are left with a sense of hope for the characters, but aren't sure if it may last.

Praise

When it comes to this movie, I was really only familiar with Aubrey Plaza and Max Greenfield, who both really present themselves as actual actors, and oddly enough didn't approach their roles as one character fits all. Something which sort of shocked me, especially for Plaza, for it showed she had range. Aside from those two I must admit no one else really stood out, but they did present an interesting story and will keep you interested throughout. If just because you'll likely feel most of the characters are developed to the point where perhaps only Siri feels underdeveloped. Ben is a writer whose life isn't how he wants, and now has Siri who he loves, but is sort of growing apart from; Josh looks at Ben as this golden child who got everything he wanted, including things Josh himself wanted; Sarah is professionally successful, but romantically a mess; and Isaac we don't learn a huge amount about, but with his girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy) joining him, and through his interactions with Sarah, while his background may not be developed, through his relationships with Sarah and Kate we do get to know and understand him. Also, I should note, Levy's character, despite not being central to the story, is certainly interesting since she plays a 22 year old, just getting her career started, who is around a bunch of late 20 year somethings who are jaded, in their careers, and she is the outsider dating one of their friends.

Criticism

As confrontational as Josh is in the film about Alex's suicide, I feel that this film for some reason glazes over Alex's suicide just a bit too much so that everyone else's drama can get established and developed. With this though, Alex just becomes a catalyst for bringing everyone together and is largely forgotten about. And truly, after watching the film, only Sarah and Josh really stand out and everyone else strangely feel like their co-stars. Part of the reason is because Josh says things which get your attention, and Sarah is presented as more human than anyone in the film. For, in my opinion, as much as everyone does get the chance to be developed, between the information being boring, and their delivery not really getting my attention anyway, it really makes it so the film seems to sit on Plaza and Greenfield's shoulders.

Like with Ben and Siri, they are made interesting due to Josh's jealousy, but take that away Josh from them and they lose any of their draw. The same goes for Isaac and Kate to a point, if Sarah wasn't pining over Isaac since she sees him as the one who she should have been with, then they also lose a lot of what kept them relevant. Though, again, the biggest victim is Alex since after his suicide attempt, pretty much Josh's callous ways, and Sarah trying to dote on him, are the sole reminders that what brought everyone together was him.

Overall: TV Viewing

Perhaps this maybe wrong to say, but in light of recent events I was hoping this film would really explore what leads a person to suicide and also how it effects the survivors in terms of the guilt associated with them perhaps being capable of preventing the suicide attempt, as well as trying to work with the person if they live. And while those topics are mentioned, they get drowned out in everyone's personal drama to the point you wonder why this movie is called About Alex when in truth it is more about everyone but him. Though, even with that said, this was a good movie to me and is very watchable. But, with it not really hitting the topic of suicide hard, and letting the would-be supporting characters end up the stars, I have to say this film deserves the "TV Viewing" label.
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10/10
I cry every time.
akjanelle20 December 2020
This movie is beautiful. It's raw, and it's so real. I tend to find myself watching it a few times a year and still crying. It's a beautiful film that I will forever cherish.
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9/10
Surprising
lorimallory-4447229 March 2019
This movie has a great cast. It is a surprisingly lovely take on the issue of suicide. My daughter and I have watched it about a dozen times.
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10/10
A millennial "The Breakfast Club"
thebc-861586 August 2018
About Alex (2014) is about an estranged group of college friends that get together years after school when one of them attempts suicide and fails. It has a great ensemble cast of people that I've seen but weren't sure if they were great. Gladly every actor and actress was fantastic Aubrey Plaza (whom I love) is great, Maggie Grace, Jason Ritter, Nate Parker, and (my favorite) Max Greenfield among others. I love the characters and the banter along with the history of them that slowly unfolds through the drama and romance. About Alex is an amazing dramedy. Check it out on Netflix 9.5/10.
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