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

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

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.