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.
Unfinished emotions come back to the surface when college friends reunite after one of the group attempts to commit suicide in About Alex.
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 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.