Every once in a while, a movie comes along that reminds you to cut the shit. And by that we mean forget everything you've posted about yourself on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and get back to the root of who you actually are and what really matters to you. Today, that movie is About Alex. Written and directed by fresh filmmaker Jesse Zwick, the drama follows six college friends who reunite after years apart following the attempted suicide of one of their own, Alex (Jason Ritter). But what's meant to be a weekend of simply being there for a lost friend in need becomes one of self-discovery and healing for every unique personality in the group.
In addition to Ritter's Alex, there's Max Greenfield as the group's stressed-out cynical one; Aubrey Plaza as the lawyer with another passion; Max Minghella as the hedge fund success with the young girlfriend (Jane Levy); and Alex's frustrated-novelist best friend, played by Nate Parker, who's in a loveless relationship with his college love (Maggie Grace). No matter who's watching, it's easy to find at least one character to relate to in About Alex.
Complex sat down with two of the films stars, Jane Levy and Nate Parker, to discuss the cast's chemistry, how they connected to the film, and what exactly makes About Alex incredibly relevant for today's generation.
On how the film reflects the millennial generation:
Jane Levy: The movie is about the important relationships in your life, whether it be with your family or your friends that are like your family. You gotta nurture that relationship more so than just checking in through text messages. And you need to grow the hell up. You're not in college anymore. You can't be sleeping with each other. I'm just kidding. [Laughs.]
Nate Parker: The film talks about social media's drawbacks. Social media is all about hooking people together, but not welding people together. It's about allowing you to recognize milestones in their lives without having to mine them from their brains. It's this very surface way of being aware rather than really knowing a person, which is dangerous because without contact and true interaction, you're left feeling lost, no matter how many Skype meetings you have. Technology stands in the gap of our inactivity, and, as a whole, we've become less creative. So much is attained through boredom.
On connecting with the rest of cast:
Levy: We were in upstate New York in a ski town, but it was deserted 'cause it was summer. We all stayed in these individual condos at this ski lodge, but I got scared one night, and Aubrey Plaza was like, "I'm scared, move in with me," so we moved in with each other. We lived next to Jason Ritter and met everyone. We'd cook dinner together and get drunk and go swimming in the river and drive to Woodstock and get juice. It was really fun. I can't think of anything else PG to share. [Laughs.]
Parker: Art actually imitated life in this film. [The cast] had this amazing bond from the beginning because we were trapped in a house with no contact with the real world. It would rain and we'd be huddled together in this little cabin, hanging out, dancing and singing, or just talking about life. That made the transition [into the film] seamless.
Jason [Ritter] and I spent a lot of time together. One of the things we really talked about is in the absence of inspiration, you sometimes cling to people who are talented and inspired, and they become your lifeblood, so to speak. And it can be dangerous. These people have a very strong effect on decisions you make. That was reflected in our characters' relationship—how I've had all this attention and all these people that seem to care what was happening in my life, and he was someone that admired that so much that in his own self-deprecating existence, he didn't feel like he could have that, but he knew that through association with me, he could. Subsequently, we talked about how he felt when was taken away or when he felt ignored. A lot of times we grow past people inevitably, and we don't even know that we're doing it.
On the idea of growing apart and revisiting past relationships:
Levy: When I go home for Christmas, and my mom, dad, and brother and I are all sleeping under the same roof; we all of a sudden revert to these simplified dumber versions of ourselves, where we play a role in that dynamic, and sometimes I'm like, "What the hell am I doing?" I find great comfort in that as well. And the same thing happens with my friends. You'll see your friends from home and they'll be like, "Oh, god, remember when you were like the meanest person in the whole world? That year when you were a cry baby." They know everything about you, and you sort of go back to that person they see you as. I can't tell if it's positive or negative, or maybe it's neither. Sometimes it's not good.
Parker: In terms of my character's relationship to Maggie Grace's, I've seen a lot of relationships where people were involved that weren't necessarily in love as much as they just had all this time invested. I like to compare it to a poker game. Once you've put so much in the pot, you have to see what the cards say. You almost kinda have to let it play out, because to pull out is to forfeit on an investment of time that you're not willing to pull out on. You almost have this hope that it will get better, and sometimes you're not willing to face the fact that you're in an unhealthy situation. And that's what our relationship was. It goes back to that whole idea that Alex attempted suicide to help us deal with our stuff. He didn't even know it.