The Films of Joe Swanberg
Kissing on the Mouth
Hannah Takes the Stairs
Nights and Weekends
Alexander the Last (February 23/10)
Authentic yet aimless, Alexander the Last follows struggling actress Alex (Jess Weixler) as she attempts to deal with (and resolve) the problems of those around her - including her traveling husband (Justin Rice's Eliott), her homeless co-star (Barlow Jacobs' Jamie), and her flighty sister (Amy Seimetz's Hellen). Filmmaker Joe Swanberg has infused Alexander the Last with an amateurish, pervasively inconsequential atmosphere that ultimately lends the proceedings the feel of a home-video compilation, although - to be fair - the movie does boast a uniformly impressive selection of performances and an opening scene that's far, far more engaging than anything that follows. Alexander the Last's few positive attributes are inevitably rendered moot, however, by Swanberg's ongoing emphasis on interludes of a decidedly less-than-compelling nature (ie there's an interminable scene in which Alex and Hellen attempt to tell a story in unison), with the almost comically uneventful vibe ensuring that the movie, more often than not, plays like a parody of a low-key indie drama. It's also worth noting that the film's myriad of problems are compounded by Swanberg's sporadic reliance on stylistic tricks of a thoroughly questionable nature, with the sequence in which he cuts between a real and a staged sex scene undoubtedly standing as the most egregious (and flat-out obnoxious) example of this. The final straw comes with the creeping realization that Alexander the Last doesn't even succeed as an intimate look at relationships, as Swanberg's aversion to character development and exposition ensures that the film's emotionally-charged moments are drained of their impact (ie why are Alex and Eliott fighting all of a sudden?) The end result is a pretentious mess that even the most avant-garde viewer will have trouble embracing, which is a shame, certainly, given the strength of Weixler's admittedly personable turn as the title character.