Alex of Venice
Directed by Chris Messina
After her stay-at-home husband leaves her, a workaholic lawyer finds that she is not completely up to the tasks of caring for her young son, ailing father and household all by herself.
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★★★★ review by Raul Marques on Letterboxd
This is a whole lot better than reviews led me to believe. Sure, it does fall into a lot of cliches for this type of film, but they're not that inconvenient when they actually work. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is just astounding to watch and some of the shots and cinematography are really good, so there's not much else to ask.
★★★½ review by Craig Duffy on Letterboxd
A slight variation on the "woman's life falls apart and she needs to figure out who she is" genre. Slight in that Alex is not single and has a kid. Very beautifully photographed and extremely well acted. I feel like the dad storyline got a bit too much screentime which draws away from the film's real focus. I imagine the part was beefed up to hook Don Johnson. Look how prominently he is featured on the poster advertising this film on Netflix. Though he does a great job with the part, I came away from this thinking, "He must have a great agent!"
★★★½ review by Waldo on Letterboxd
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is simply great as the young professional abandoned by her stay at home husband. Messina directs a very good, honest family drama here. He definitely learned from the directors he had worked with. Don Johnson is also great as the dad/actor. One of those starting over films that works thanks to its honesty. Winstead needs to be a bigger star pronto.
★★★½ review by Anthonythefilmbuff ✌️ on Letterboxd
“No matter how hard to control this life is, there are some things that are forever. We fight for them.”
★★★½ review by Terrence Chang on Letterboxd
Chris Messina's directorial debut is a "slice-of-life" film. Alex of Venice is the kind of indie drama where nothing really happens presently even though hints of the past suggest an arc. It's really more of a character study or a contemplation of the loss and reinvention of self than a drama. The story itself is fairly standard, middle of the road - Alex's husband feels trapped and unappreciated so he leaves her. Consequently, she struggles to balance her job as an environmental lawyer while taking care of her 10 year old son and her forgetful father.
Most of the plot threads that are laid out do not get resolved. Alex's involvement with the determined spa developer her firm is fighting in court doesn't lead to anything. No one talks about the implications of her father's Alzheimer's diagnosis. Her son is encouraged by his aunt to pursue his classmate in a budding romance but this doesn't amount to much. Even when Alex's husband, George, returns and their separation is confirmed, there's no outlook to a future except in reminding their son that they both love him.
But in spite of its tendency to suggest storylines without any type of solid arc, Alex of Venice excels in a way, because the cast does a fantastic job at conveying present struggles. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is, as usual, devoted to everything she plays - here, pulling off a fully fleshed out character with a breezy persuasiveness. Don Johnson's role as Roger is an inspired performance, ranging from carefree weed-smoking father to local theatre actor struggling with symptoms of dementia.
A blend of great performances and some beautiful cinematography make for a pleasant viewing experience. Much like the tadpole that Alex is trying to protect, she's trying to adapt to the changes happening in her life. And even though we don't know what happens, it's all right.
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