Alex of Venice
|Alex of Venice|
|Directed by||Chris Messina|
|Music by||David Wingo|
|Edited by||Amy P. McGrath|
Electric City Entertainment
|Distributed by||Screen Media Films|
Alex of Venice is a 2014 drama film directed by Chris Messina in his directorial debut. It is written by Jessica Goldberg, Katie Nehra and Justin Shilton. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson, Katie Nehra, Chris Messina, Derek Luke, and Skylar Gaertner. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18, 2014, and has expanded to a few other film festivals.
Alex, a young environmental lawyer in Venice, California, is working hard to support her family. Her stay-at-home husband George, an artist, decides he’s unhappy and can’t continue taking care of their shy school-aged son Dakota or Alex’s aging father Roger. When George leaves Alex, Roger invites her wild younger sister Lily, a clothing designer, to stay with them and help look after Dakota.
Alex needs to deal with an impending legal case against Frank, a property developer with whom she has a brief sexual relationship, as well as her father’s increasing forgetfulness. Roger, a former television actor who doesn’t want to accept his declining acuity, is cast as the aged manservant Firs in a stage production of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, but he struggles to remember his lines and cues. He also begins to demonstrate confusion, so his daughters take him to a doctor who gives him a brain scan.
Alex loses the legal case, and at a party afterward she takes the drug ecstasy and becomes furious with Lily when she learns that Lily has not taken Dakota to school for a week. Alex calls George and tells him that it’s not safe for her to drive; he finds her high and takes her home. The next day Lily apologizes for letting Dakota skip classes. Alex forgives her and thanks her, and she tells her that George is not coming back to her but that she wants to spend more time with Dakota. George tells Dakota he will continue to be his father but won’t stay with Alex. Alex tells Dakota that she and George still love him and that this will never change. Later the family attends Roger’s performance, which goes well.
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Alex
- Don Johnson as Roger
- Derek Luke as Frank
- Katie Nehra as Lily
- Chris Messina as George
- Skylar Gaertner as Dakota
- Julianna Guill as Anya
- Reg E. Cathey as Walt
- Timm Sharp as Josh
- Matthew Del Negro as James
- Michael Chernus as Trofimov
The following have cameos in the film
Messina has stated he was inspired, and influenced by several filmmakers that he has worked for before. "I would say Woody Allen and Sam Mendes were huge inspirations. [Woody] casts his movies really well and then he kind of lets you go. [...] With Sam Mendes, he said something that I quote constantly. He told me that every actor comes with a gift, and it’s the director’s job to let that gift out." Messina has also named Kramer vs. Kramer, Hannah and Her Sisters and the work of John Cassavetes as "models for the film's quiet naturalism".
Messina directed the film back-to-back while shooting The Mindy Project. He has said about the experience, “That was maybe the dumbest thing – it was grueling, and I would never do that again [...] I’d be on set at Mindy during the day and then editing at night, and constantly on the phone during breaks.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was cast in the film on 12 June 2013. She says of the script, "I immediately loved it. It was one of those things where I cried like 5 times when I first read it. I just felt really connected to the role and thought it was so beautifully written."
Messina approached Don Johnson to play the role of Alex's father Roger. Johnson says he "wasn’t initially won over to play Alex’s father," but "Chris wouldn’t leave me alone – he came up to my house in North Los Angeles, and I wasn’t really looking to work, so I dragged him to my boys’ basketball game and made him watch, and he feigned interest." Johnson ultimately agreed, saying he was "intrigued by Messina's infectious passion" and "the material resonated with me because it had different tempos and rhythms."
Upon casting himself in the movie, Messina said, “I thought there were a lot of other actors who could’ve done a better job [...] I was scared to do both (acting and directing), but I wanted to do it to learn what it’d be like. Maybe two weeks out, I was trying to convince Jamie [Patricof, producer] to hire somebody else!” But both Nehra and Shilton hoped for Messina for the role years ago. “He was our only George,” said Shilton.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18, 2014. Alex of Venice was also shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival on May 8, 2014 and at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 6, 2014.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 30 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Alex of Venice does immensely likable things with its overly familiar parts, adding up to an agreeable calling card for debuting director Chris Messina." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Above all, the cast's performance has been highly praised by critics, with Winstead prominently singled out. Variety says, “Winstead gives an extraordinary performance in this uneven but pleasurably mellow indie.” Moviewallas.com adds, "A great deal of the film’s success lies in the casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the lead." Screen Invasion notes, "Winstead is quietly stunning in all of Alex's various circumstances, from bewildered, overwhelmed and frazzled, to focused, confident and accepting."
Johnson also received praise for his performance, with Galo Magazine saying, "Johnson's ability to slip into the skin of his characters...has been underrated far too long." Messina’s directing has also been commended. The Arts Guild says, “Messina has created a film that does successfully look at a [character’s] growth out of chaos”.
One reviewer complained that the script "leaves many details behind" and that "the audience is left questioning the plot from the get go"; but also felt that "the performances... make up for the film's ambiguity."
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- Alex of Venice Trailer, News, Videos, and Reviews | ComingSoon.net
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- Twitter / katienehra: 5 yrs of werrrrk and here we ...
- mewins on Instagram
- Tribeca 2014 – Derek Luke Talks ‘Alex Of Venice’ | blackfilm.com/read
- Interview With Chris Messina On Directing Alex Of Venice
- Tribeca: Patrick Stewart and Mary Elizabeth Winstead Steal the Show on Night 3 - TheWrap
- Q&A with Mary Elizabeth Winstead | Anthem Magazine
- Tribeca: Chris Messina Talks 'Grueling' Juggle of Directing 'Alex of Venice' and Filming 'Mindy Project' - The Hollywood Reporter
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- Alex of Venice | 2014 Seattle International Film Festival < Films
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- ‘Alex of Venice’ Review- Mary Elizabeth Winstead Soars in Chris Messina’s Debut | Variety
- 2014 Tribeca Film Festival | Review | Alex Of Venice | Moviewallas
- ALEX OF VENICE – TFF 2014 Movie Review - Screen Invasion
- Tribeca Reviews: The Subtleties of ‘Alex of Venice’ | GALO Magazine
- Tribeca 2014: Alex of Venice – Film Review | The Arts Guild
- Tribeca Reviews: “Loitering with Intent” and “Alex of Venice,” Two Problematic Dramedies | Movie Mezzanine