About Alex

  • Review Date: August 8, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Mature ensemble drama deals with suicide, drugs.
  • Review Date: August 8, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though suicide is one of the movie's main themes, it doesn't really discuss the repercussions of the act except to say: "Don't do it. Life is better."

Positive role models

These are realistically human/flawed characters in their early 30s; they make mistakes, but they also forgive each other and talk things through. They rush to the side of their friend when he needs them most, and their friendship remains strong after everything is said and done. That said, they do consume a lot of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.

Violence

One of the movie's main subjects is suicide. A character climbs into the bathtub fully clothed and sends a tweet. He's next shown returning from the hospital with bandages on his wrists. The bathroom, with blood on the tub and on the floor, is shown. There's a minor car crash, and characters frequently argue, although they remain good friends. One of the characters works for a suicide hotline.

Sex

No nudity is shown, but characters are shown kissing and are heard having sex. Characters sometimes try to kiss people who aren't their regular partners, though these kisses are often rebuffed. One woman may be pregnant; she explains to her friend that she's "late."

Language

Several uses of "f--k" and "a--hole" and a few uses of "s--t"/"bulls--t" and "ass," plus a use of "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism

Familiar beer labels are briefly seen, and characters sometimes use their mobile devices, though brand names aren't really shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

During a weekend with friends, characters frequently drink wine or beer, and most smoke pot at least once. Some of the characters are shown smoking cigarettes. Two of the characters take prescription anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that About Alex is an ensemble drama about characters in their early 30s who gather together when one of their friends attempts suicide. Though suicide is a main topic of the movie, it's not really discussed in any depth except to say that it's a bad idea. But some blood is shown in a bathroom where the character made his attempt. Language is quite strong, with words like "f--k," "bulls--t," and "a--hole" used throughout. Characters are heard having sex, and sex is discussed, though there's no nudity. Viewers see characters kissing, and occasionally characters try to kiss people who aren't their partners (these attempts are usually rebuffed). Characters also smoke pot and drink a good deal of alcohol, and some of the characters smoke cigarettes. Older teens may be interested in adopting this as their generation's The Big Chill or The Breakfast Club.

What's the story?

When Alex (Jason Ritter) attempts suicide, his six best friends from college rush to his side for a weekend of self-reflection, discussion, food, drugs, and drink. Ben (Nate Parker) is a struggling writer, Siri (Maggie Grace) may be pregnant, Josh (Max Greenfield) is cynical and mean, Sarah (Aubrey Plaza) is insecure but loves to cook, and Isaac (Max Minghella) has made a lot of money and is now dating the young, pretty Kate (Jane Levy). Old emotions are stirred up, and new revelations are discovered. Will the characters' friendships survive the weekend?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

ABOUT ALEX is the writing and directing debut of Jesse Zwick, the son of Oscar favorite Edward Zwick (Glory, etc.). His ensemble drama is a throwback to many other movies, notably The Big Chill and The Breakfast Club, as well as the more recent I Melt with You and 10 Years. It has enough youthful exuberance -- and naïvete -- to assume that it's saying something new. (Although, at one point, a character opines, "this is just like one of those '80s movies!")

But although About Alex doesn't really have a single fresh idea or genuine surprise, the characters actually do come to life and begin to exhibit their own amiable personalities. Actors like Plaza bring a special blend of intelligence, humor, and emotional vulnerability to their roles. Their relationships are complex, without any easy solutions, and decisions aren't easy. Yet characters continue to stumble forward, choosing hope over failure, and it's inspiring, even if you're not of this specific generation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about About Alex's depiction of suicide. How does it affect people? Does the movie portray the consequences realistically? What can you do in real life if you have a friend who seems at risk?

  • What do you think drives these characters to drink, smoke, and use drugs? Do they seem to enjoy it? What happens as a result?

  • How do the characters view sex? What are the reasons given for characters sleeping with one another?

  • What's the appeal of an ensemble "reunion of friends" drama like About Alex? Is it easy to recognize your own relationships with friends? How are the onscreen friends different from you and your friends?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 8, 2014
DVD release date:November 4, 2014
Cast:Aubrey Plaza, Maggie Grace, Jason Ritter
Director:Jesse Zwick
Studio:Screen Media Films
Genre:Drama
Topics:Friendship
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and drug use

This review of About Alex was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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