A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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?
ABOUT ALEX is inspiring, even if you're not of this specific generation. This film 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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?
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