“There are three stages to finding friends in college: the first is desperation, the second is panic, the third is fate—when you wind up at the same table together, somehow and your real life begins…”
Such are the starter words to writer Ben’s (played by Nate Parker) first published piece. It’s a piece that led to his full time career in writing, and captured his friendship with his five closest friends from college, which include merger and acquisition lawyer Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), philosopher and resident douche bag Josh (Max Greenfield), investment banker Isaac (Max Minghella), Ben’s girlfriend Siri (Maggie Grace), and devoted loner Alex (Jason Ritter). Ben’s words were scribed ten years ago at a time where the bond between these six people was all consuming. About Alex, however, brings us into the future where the only thing that can bring these reluctant friends together is Alex’s attempted suicide. The friends, along with new addition Kate (played by Jane Levy), spend a weekend at Alex’s house trying to avoid everything from the bathroom Alex slit his wrists in, to the unanswered question of what happened to their friendship.
The trailer for About Alex boasted a review that it is The Big Chill for millennials and that influence and idea is easy to see when watching the film. Although the editing is sometimes choppy and I’m never a fan of background music that is so loud and intrusive it is basically telling the audience, “This is when you should feel sad,” there is this connection and a familiarity to the film that makes it hard to stop watching. There are so many different complexities to all of these relationships within the friend group, and if you are a fan of New Girl there is a glimpse of Schmidt somewhere in Max Greenfield’s performance, but it is the relationship between Ben and Alex, so flawlessly developed by Nate Parker and Jason Ritter, that makes this film worth watching. There is a desperation and a lost-ness between the two of them that shines in particular that gives the movie its feet.
As someone in a group of six friends who has obsessively been involved with each other for nearly a decade now, I actively search for and dismiss all movies that have to do with a group of friends who come back together and face a crisis. But About Alex is charming and warm. It’s the kind of film that you can watch again and again and relearn something about each character or scene without boredom.
About Alex is not a perfect movie. But getting the chance to see those six friends become who they were just by sitting at a dining hall table left me in both sad and happy sobs. I’m sure if you see the movie, it’ll break you just the same.
You can find About Alex on VOD and in select theaters starting August 8, 2014.