A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alex Strangelove is a teen comedy that puts sex and sexual orientation front and center. While the characters and situations are funny and light-hearted, the story has a serious core, as a very popular student with a reputation as "the best boyfriend in the world" confronts unacknowledged sexual desires just as he's about to graduate from high school. Teens are portrayed (humorously) as raunchy, obsessed with sex, and unconcerned about social conventions. While there's no on-camera nudity or simulated sex, you can expect lots of sexual activity and racy conversation, including kissing, foreplay, and constant references to sex (including many uses of body-part words like "vagina, "c--k," "penis," and "ball sack"). Swearing and graphic insults are nearly constant, including "bastard," "ass," "f----t," and countless uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Underage teens also drink, get drunk, smoke pot, and party hard. But underneath all of the iffy stuff are strong messages about self-acceptance, self-respect, honest communication, and unconditional friendship.
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What's the story?
In ALEX STRANGELOVE, Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) seems to have it all. He's president of the senior class, on the fast track to an Ivy League college, and in love with Claire (Madeline Weinstein), a girl who shares his spirit, his intellect, and his tendency to plan ahead. But there's just one problem: Alex can't quite bring himself to take those final, last steps toward a fully intimate relationship with Claire -- i.e. having sex. In a high school like Alex's, where sex is the number one topic of conversation (just ahead of partying, getting drunk, and stoned), the fact that Alex is still a virgin is humiliating for him ... and disappointing for Claire. And so they set a date -- and book a hotel room -- for the "big moment." In the meantime, though, Alex meets Elliott (Antonio Marziale), a charismatic young man who's quite comfortable with his own sexuality. He's gay and is quickly smitten with Alex. It's a fateful, eye-opening experience for Alex. From that moment, no "date setting," no awkward foreplay, and no macho posing, no matter how deep his denial, can keep Alex from recognizing who he truly is.
Is it any good?
Some genuinely funny scenes and predicaments, bright teen characters, and a kind-hearted look at a boy's acceptance of his sexual orientation make this timely film highly enjoyable. An added plus is that the young actors are all very relatable and give earnest, skilled performances. Though writer/director Craig Johnson doesn't avoid some obvious stereotyping (i.e., the drama club party), it's all fun and purposefully over-the-top, as is the constant profanity. Johnson embellishes Alex Strangelove with some quirky animations, flashbacks, and exaggerated tricks-of-the-trade (the gummy worms are unforgettable) that are fine, if sometimes bit too precious. And perhaps Johnson meant to leave the college application subplot unresolved, but it was missed. On a most positive note, the resolution is a lovely exercise in wish fulfillment -- if only it were that easy. Teens will laugh, and it sends a solid message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Alex Strangelove depicts sexual identity and Alex's emerging awareness of his own orientation. The film and its characters take a loving, non-judgmental approach to Alex. Is that what would happen in your community?
Did you notice any stereotyping in the film? If so, did it bother you? Why or why not?
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