+ Recommended – TV-MA, Comedy, Drama
Let me preface this with the fact that I am happy more films like this are coming our way. For too long, the LGBT+ community hasn’t felt comfortable with themselves; still facing the issue head-on today. Comparatively, while Love, Simon was a subtle and charming movie, Alex Strangelove breaks new ground. The raunchy teen comedy flare adds, what would seem to be on paper, a vibrant and colorful sandbox for the story to breathe in; for that, I respect the film. There are detailed, well thought-out gags, but you can also find key moments where the writing and execution flopped.
The story follows Alex Truelove and his journey through his senior high school year. Alex is the class president and has many promising avenues ahead of him. He has a beautiful girlfriend and a band of friends, whom don’t entirely fit within the movie but we will get to that. There’s just one problem: he isn’t sure of his sexuality. Is he bisexual, gay, or maybe even asexual? That’s where I thought the film was going for a brief second. We have yet to see a story revolving an asexual character represented in the right way.
“A movie with a John Hughes vibe that also doubles as an LGBT+ film just came out on Netflix?” A concept that sounds exceptional on paper, but wasn’t handled properly under the writer-director, Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins). Not only did the writing feel forced in a few places, there were also significant blocking and line delivery issues; mainly in the second act. Yet, the casting was done perfectly as Daniel Doheny (Alex) duels as a likable, yet flawed protagonist and Madeline Weinstein’s (Claire) chemistry with Doheny does work in every aspect of their relationship.
The supporting cast does well too, I might add. Antonio Marziale (Elliot) will grab the audience’s attention with a smooth swagger, but overall was underused as a character. Even, Daniel Zolghadri (Dell), whose writing fell flat and was crammed in unnecessary places, was a joy to watch. But Alex’s friends are the extra fluff that subsequently weigh down the story from obtaining the desired charm that Love, Simon captured so perfectly. It’s not elegant or subtle, but rather on-the-nose and sometimes will invoke the inner cringe; but that was intended, I believe. It’s just too much. Tonally, the first and third acts are different than the second and it feels like an entirely different experience.
There were no “ah-ha” moments for me. Everything felt fresh simply because the story revolved around the LGBT+ community; not because the foundation and genre were updated or reworked. However, the overall final product wasn’t awful. I did laugh a number of times during my initial watch and found that there are portions of Alex Strangelove that are oddly entertaining, and even exciting at times. If you have nothing else going on this weekend, turn on Netflix and get your fix of pride.