Netflix's most recent release, Alex Strangelove, is a quirky, self-aware teen comedy that explores the clumsy coming out tale of a high school boy. It gives a somewhat realistic portrayal of life as a teenager but seems to miss the mark on life in school and occasionally feels like it's trying too hard to force a laugh. However, it tackles something, which for a lot of people can be a huge part of their life, with care and provides a heart-warming story.
What's it about?
Alex Strangelove follows the life of Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), a straight-A class president who meets a girl, Claire (Madeline Weinstein). They bond on their love of cephalopods, soon becoming friends and starting a web series about drama in high school. Eventually one night they fall for each other and begin dating. Things are going great until Claire reveals to his friends after 8 months of dating they were yet to have sex, and that he was always 'pulling the plug' when the moment came. They agree that they will finally 'do it' one night in a hotel and make plans for him to lose his virginity. However, one night at a party, Alex meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) who is openly gay, Elliot takes a liking to Alex starts to ask questions about who he is.
It knows it's audience
Strangelove is very aware of the type of film it is, it doesn't try to be about a serious internal battle for Alex, and just accepts it's role as a teen comedy. It follows some of the clichés of a typical teen film, with wild parties, drug experimentation and even ends at a prom. It treats teenagers like real human beings and doesn't hold back on the language they use and the way they act. Teenagers are rude, they swear, they talk about things in graphic detail and this film has the inbetweeners-esque friends Alex act just like that. However, the school they go to seems to be taken straight off of Disney Channel, it's void of drama and just full of sunshine and rainbows, with Alex at the centre.
Hit and miss comedy
Although being a comedy, the jokes at times are very hit and miss. The main comic relief comes in the form of Alex's best friend, Dell (Daniel Zolghadri), who's lines at times seem to be trying too hard to force a laugh. I'm not saying he's an unfunny character, he has some of the funniest moments in the film with his sister, but at times some of the jokes fall flat.
Focusing on failure
Strangelove focuses less on Alex's love for Elliot but rather his loss of attraction for Claire, culminating in a failed attempt to have sex. This choice is an interesting one from writer and director Craig Johnson, but it works well in displaying a complete shift in lifestyle for Alex. It doesn't completely disregard his past but rather shows the transition and self-discovery. However, this does leave Elliot (the catalyst for this transition) a little forgotten about, but I don't necessarily believe that's a bad thing, highlighting Alex's confusion and maybe even denial of his sexuality.
Johnson makes it almost very clear from the offset that something is not quite right about Alex and Claire's relationship. They seem more like BFFs than they are dating, well if you knew anything about the film before watching, you know it wasn't going to last. I feel that this impacted negatively, it didn't feel too much like Alex was really going through much internal struggle, it just seemed like the logical conclusion. Then again, it is a teen comedy and doesn't try to hide it, and they always make it obvious who is going to end up together.
A good fit for Netflix
Netflix seems like the perfect location for a film like Strangelove, it's a film made for a generation that consumes most of their content online. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the heavy hitting names to make it a success as a theatrical release, but I think that it would do just fine online. It follows the positive trend of the LGBTQ+ community in film and is a heartwarming watch that tries it's best to follow the John Hughes teen comedy formula.
My Score: 7/10
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