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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Alex of Venice movie review: no mess like home

Alex of Venice green light

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is eminently relatable in a compassionate, human-scaled movie of the sort that movies have almost forgotten of late.
I’m “biast” (pro): I am desperate for stories about women

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Alex’s life is falling apart. Her husband, George (Chris Messina: Palo Alto), has had it with being a stay-at-home father and househusband and has hit the road. Her son, Dakota (Skylar Gaertner: They Came Together), is lonely and needs to make more friends, or so his teachers say. Her Dad (Don Johnson: The Other Woman), who lives with them, is having worrisome trouble with his memory. Her sister, Lily (Katie Nehra), has moved back into help out in George’s absence but could be doing more harm than good. And her work as an environmental lawyer for a tiny storefront activist group is heating up with a big case against a wealthy Los Angeles developer (Derek Luke: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) that has a rapidly approaching trial date. How can she possibly manage all this stress? Alex of Venice, Messina’s directorial debut, is an agreeably satisfying story about the myriad pressures of ordinary 21st-century life and taking the bumps with as much grace as possible, and by accepting that sometimes ya just gotta let off some steam. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kill the Messenger), as Alex, is eminently relatable as a woman whose problems look a lot like those you and I would recognize, or maybe actually see ourselves in: hers is one of the more realistic modern families I’ve seen onscreen recently, their sort of nontraditional very much the new normal for lots of people. Even better: Alex of Venice is the kind of human-scaled movie that movies have almost forgotten of late, a very compassionate story about everyday change that that doesn’t pretend change is easy, but which does remind us that it’s often necessary and that we can find ways to cope with it. Which makes this an almost therapeutic cinematic experience.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Alex of Venice for its representation of girls and women.

green light 3.5 stars

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Alex of Venice (2015)
US/Can release: Apr 17 2015 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references, drug use)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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