Aug 13, 2018

[Movies] Alex Strangelove (2018) Review

For one reason or another, Tobie and I didn't get to catch Love, Simon in theaters, which was a bit of a disappointment since I was curious about the film. But the convenience of Netflix made it a heck of a lot easier to catch Alex Strangelove once it was added to the regional content library. And that is pretty much how Netflix functions - by making content fairly convenient to access.

Now I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this movie since it seemed to fit the mold of yet another classic LGBT coming of age story complete with the protagonist eventually coming out as being...not straight, at the very least.

But early reviews for the movie were pretty positive and that just piqued my curiosity even further. Was this movie in fact more than your typical LGBT fare that we've gotten over and over again? Does this movie try to do something new?

In a way, I guess they did. It wasn't a big shift, but it was certainly something noticeable.

Synopsis: Alex Strangelove is a 2018 LGBT comedy drama movie written and directed by Craig Johnson. It premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival and was released on Netflix a few months later.

Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) is a high school student with a long-time friend Claire (Madeline Weinstein) who is now his girlfriend after he helped her through her mother's cancer diagnosis. By the start of the movie the two have been dating for a good eight months but hadn't had sex for one reason or another. Butt he main person who has been delaying this from happening is actually Alex and not Claire.

So one thing leads to another and their not having had sex becomes a matter discussed among friends and so Alex decides to set a date for them to finally cross that threshold together including renting a hotel room. But after making this promise, Alex meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale), an openly gay teenager that he finds himself enjoying time with. But the more time they spend together, the more Alex realizes he's starting to have feelings for him, and maybe he's not quite as straight as he thought he was.

What I Liked: The movie certainly has a good feel to it - the way dialog is written feels fairly natural and easy to follow along. And that helps the movie feel a lot more genuine somehow despite seeming to play up to a lot of teen movie tropes. But on the whole the goal was clearly to create a teen-centric LGBT story that is just a bit more optimistic than most of the stuff we see coming out these days similar to the John Hughes teen movies of the 80's.

Doheny was a great choice for the protagonist as he didn't fall into the tropes of playing a teen somewhat conflicted about his sexuality and made sure that his character was more than just that conflict. And that's never an easy performance to deliver. This is not to say that Weinstein and Marziale didn't do well alongside him - the core cast was actually pretty solid and it made for a great basis for this movie to get its story across.

What Could Have Been Better: The nature of Alex's affection for Elliot is quick and somewhat shallow. Sure they get along when they first meet and they then they sort of go out and spend a day together and really get along. But then that mostly formed the basis for Alex to really think he has feelings for him and when he starts to question his sexuality. Infatuation is a real thing of course but the movie sort of hand waves over this and just keeps going forward with the story.

To tie a lot of things to Alex not having sex with Claire initially felt funny but sort of developed into something a little awkward the more it got stretched out. And with the questions about Alex's sexuality now in play the back and forth about them having sex just felt weirder and weirder. I kind of wish they had brought the sexuality question out in the open sooner rather than let things get all the way to the two checking into a hotel.

TL;DR: Alex Strangelove is still a charming and refreshing take on the LGBT teen coming of age movie that sets itself apart from other LGBT movies with similar stories. The middle bits are a little awkward but on the whole the movie has a lot of heart and is well performed. And thus the movie gets a good 4 weird examples of Alex trying to sexy talk Claire out of a possible 5.

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