Alex of Venice is a well-done, modern example of how some relationships fall apart and it, in more ways than one, struck a chord with me. Alex represents an over-dedicated career woman in her 20s, except her adult life started out of order. She had her son, Dakota, at 19, raised him and eventually returned to law school. Now, she’s a hard working environmental attorney who sees her family just enough to get by.
But what’s she to do when her husband abruptly leaves? It’s a problem facing many of her type, and I fear ever being in a work situation that takes me away from family. How she handles it: she chars the steak. But her exuberant sister, Lily, well-played by film co-writer Katie Nehra, comes to Alex’s aid. Their dad, Don Johnson’s motives for inviting her for a sudden visit aren’t spoken, but clear.
The film’s plot feels really well considered in that the conversation Alex has with her dad about Lily visiting is nicely done. Why did you invite her here now? And there aren’t any other reasons? In the same vein as that one, the scene between Alex and her husband, George, is especially well-done. And there isn’t a more important interaction in the film than this one because it happens so early in the film. The actors, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina, respectively, really have to sell us on there being a wedge in their relationship. No one knows the risk of overlooking it more than Messina, the director whose film is riding on it.
They do a fine job, Winstead in particular. She’s able to show her character going through a slow realization during their conversation that he’s actually going to leave. It really sets in for Alex when she drives up and down the coast looking for him.
Winstead is a real revelation here. Some of her past films (see: Final Destination 3, and a couple Die Hard installments) haven’t showcased her talent. But as the lead in Alex of Venice, she and her character really grow on you. She plays this role, that of a tightly-wound, panicky woman and young mother, expertly.
The film, above all else, is Alex rediscovering herself and restarting her life. It’s equal parts dramatic, emotional and fun. It’s trying to draw themes from The Cherry Orchard, originally penned by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov in the early 1900s. Johnson’s character, Roger, obtains the role of Firs for a reproduction of it. Although it would’ve ultimately helped me review this film, I haven’t read or seen the play. However, Messina and the Alex of Venice writers are certainly admirably ambitious in attempting to bring new life to the play. It alone sets apart this representation of this kind of life from other films delving into the subject.
“Alex of Venice”: ★★★