“I didn’t have it as figured out as I thought I did.”
In Chris Messina’s directorial debut, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays “Alex” – a young working mom who suddenly finds herself separated from her artist husband “George” (Messina). As it turns out, George is tired of being the stay-at-home parent and needs a break from it all. Naturally this turns Alex’s world upside down. Besides dealing with the sudden separation from her husband, she now has to juggle a full-time job; be there for her young introverted son; look after her father (played by Don Johnson) who is clearly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and take care of herself as well (prior to the separation George pretty much took care of all that). After an unspecified amount of time (it wasn’t very clear to me) Alex decides to get back out there and date again. She eventually finds a seemingly great guy in the form of “Frank” (Derek Luke). Will Alex start a new chapter in her life with Frank, or try to work things out with George?
I don’t want to insult Alex Of Venice too much, but if you’ve seen enough relationship movies you can probably predict everything that’s going to happen just from watching the two minute trailer.
Any other day of the week I’d brush this movie off as; “not my thing”, and give it a hastily graded 3 out of 10 and keep it moving (…maybe even a 2 out of 10 depending on how I’m feeling). I’m actually surprised I found the 700 words to write this review. To say this movie has it’s share of cliches is an understatement. Besides a subplot involving the wild/free-spirited/troubled younger sister coming back in to the picture, Alex finds simple tasks like cooking and managing bills incredibly difficult now that she’s on her own (I say that sarcastically). I also find it damn near impossible to feel any kind of sympathy for the character of George. I understand depression can be tough (especially when you’re in a relationship with someone), but there wasn’t enough information given as to why we should care about his unhappiness. Less than 10 minutes in, Alex & George are separated and for the rest of the film we keep getting these vague explanations as to why their relationship never worked out through tired lines of dialogue like; “people just like, you know…change, I guess…”. I don’t need everything spelled out & spoon-fed to me, but I still need a little more information in order to give a shit about the characters. Alex Of Venice also has the light stench of Sam Mendes’ Away We Go, which, coincidentally, also features Venice’s co-star/director Chris Messina.
But no matter how many criticisms I have, there was definitely an honest attempt at trying to make a mature film (Messina shows promise as a director). Alex Of Venice is very similar to Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz in that there are just as many incredibly frustrating qualities as there are good qualities (Waltz is a better film overall, but there are some legitimate comparisons between the two movies). It’s also not fair for me to misguide readers based on my own personal snobby movie preferences (plus I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few tiny nuggets in this movie that mirrored my own personal life at the moment). At the end of the day this is still not my kind of movie (I certainly don’t see myself ever watching this again), but there is a demographic of folks out there who will enjoy this. If you’re a fan of Claude Chabrol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder or Catherine Breillat, I highly suggest you avoid this (and in all honesty, if you’re in to the aforementioned filmmakers, Alex Of Venice probably wasn’t even on your radar to begin with). However, if you’re a fan of films like Eat, Pray, Love (minus the culture vulture aspect) or typical focus feature-style romantic dramedies, this is right up your alley.