Alexander The Last

"Very Good"

Alexander The Last Review


For the last couple of years, filmmaker Joe Swanberg has been one of the unofficial "people to watch" in the indie movie world. A passionate participant in the "mumblecore" movement, he gained attention with Hannah Takes the Stairs in 2007, and scored solid reviews (including mine) with 2008's Nights and Weekends. With Alexander the Last, Swanberg aspires to the next level -- in story scope, character development, and artistic commentary -- and just misses the mark.

It's not for lack of trying. Swanberg builds a loose character setup within an ambitious background of reality and artifice. He asks us to consider when intimacy is true, when it is simply make-believe, and when the hell we should be able to tell the difference.

It's a logical proposition for the mumblecore style, where digital video and loosely structured dialogue convey their own reel reality. Of course, it just feels real, and here Swanberg demands a deeper interpretation from both us and his characters. Intended or not, John Cassavetes' films posed those same questions -- with a similar style -- and the connection is impossible to ignore.

The reality of Alexander the Last focuses on actress Alex (Jess Weixler, Teeth), her husband Elliot (actor/musician Justin Rice, Mutual Appreciation) and Alex's sister Hellen (Amy Seimetz, Wristcutters). The film's artificial universe exists in Alex's on-stage world, where she's preparing -- endlessly it seems -- for a steamy lovemaking scene with Jamie (Barlow Jacobs, Shotgun Stories), who's sleeping with Hellen in the real world.

So while Alex and Jamie rehearse the choreography of rolling around and removing clothes on stage (with the great Jane Adams as the director), we also spy Hellen and Jamie getting it on for real. Swanberg cuts abruptly between the scenes, forcing the question: Has Swanberg blocked the "real" sex scene as carefully as the "fake" one is being staged for the play?

The art, the reality -- and the art of reality -- all intertwine. What's missing is a bit of accessibility to the characters, who seem a little too wrapped up in the quiet, slacker tempo that's become a mumblecore signature. The acting does the film justice -- Weixler is just great, a combination of maturity and vulnerability she wears naturally -- but Swanberg should give us something to grab on to earlier in the film, and hold our sympathy for the distance.

He did it with outstanding skill in Nights and Weekends (with co-director/star Greta Gerwig), and it would help here. When Elliot reads Poe to Alex, we can't take our eyes off Weixler's enamored look; the action, though, is an unnatural contradiction that annoys more than it entertains. (Maybe it's "The bells, the bells, the bells....")

The earlier Cassavetes reference brings to mind Opening Night, his study of a troubled stage actress played by his wife, Gena Rowlands. Like Cassavetes, as Swanberg and crew combine the worlds of real and staged action, they achieve something more vital: They expose characters' personal pains, ticks, fears -- and celebrations. When Alex proclaims she's having one of the great days of her life, we'd like to be there.

Bring out the Snuggies!



Alexander The Last

Facts and Figures

Run time: 72 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 14th March 2009

Distributed by: Film Science

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 5.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Anish Savjani,

Starring: as Alex, Justin Rice as Eliott, Barlow Jacobs as Jamie

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
‚úē
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.