Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"About Alex" does recall "The Big Chill": I didn't have much empathy for Alex, or for the "author" this time

I was motivated to see “About Alex” (directed by Jesse Zwick), because one of the characters (Ben, played by Nate Parker) is established as an A-list author in the traditional book publishing world (able to get advances, as required for membership in Author’s Guild) but now has writer’s block.  I don’t relate to getting into that hissy fit, because I set my own content for what I write.  That’s both positive and negative. 
The film is said to be a remake of “The Big Chill” (1983, by Lawrence Kasdan, for Columbia), which I did like when I saw it in Dallas (I think at Northpark).  I could compare it more distantly to “The Ice Storm” (Ang Lee, for Fox) and which I do remember seeing with a new friend at the Landmark Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis shortly after moving there in late 1997.
Zwick’s film is different from Kasdan’s in that Alex (Jason Ritter) has survived his suicide attempt. In fact, the movie starts with that nonsense, where Alex tweets and throws his smart phone in the bathtub.  The rest of the movie is all 1970s – I don’t recall seeing a cell phone or computer in the country house the former roommates gather at in upstate New York, in East Durham, south of Albany).  The tragic ending of the life of Robin Williams was a complete coincidence; it had nothing to do with my seeing the movie.
The friends pair off over the weekend, with nighttime bedroom liaisons audible through the thin walls in the house.  They take turns watching Alex, who prances around with his relatively hairless wrists taped. Ritter looks a little pudgy.  It’s hard to accept him in a role like this, having gotten used to him as a “Clark Kent like” hero in the NBC series “The Event” (where he doesn’t know he is actually an extraterrestrial alien who will never age).    Max Minghella is the most attractive of the remaining characters, as Isaac (an aspiring investment banker).

Toward the end of the film there is a confrontation between Alex and Ben which suggests that Alex had a crush on him, or expected some kind of attention from Ben.  His penultimate tweet reads “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man”.  I’m not sure what to make of that. There’s a brief flashback of the kids together a decade before in college. 

The official site is here  from Screen Media.  I saw the film this afternoon at the West End Cinema in Washington DC, and the audience count was two.  

Picture: southern part of Adirondack Park along I-87, my trip in 2012 (north of Albany).  The theater gives away postcards of the movie art. 

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