About Alex (★★★½)

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: 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.

Watch the Tribeca Film Festival Q & A with the director and its stars: