Alex is at bar when his current musical obsession starts playing on the jukebox. It did not start randomly, a woman chose it. The pair starts hanging out and it turns out that they share much more than musical tastes…maybe a little too much. It’s meet-cute 101, and the chemistry is off the charts, but there is a slight edge to the proceedings, one that explodes via a hi-concept twist. Despite the crazy plot development however, director Jack Henry Robbins deftly prevents the film from flying off, grounding his carefully written comedy in a deeper, and often poignant examination of romance, self-love, and what we look for in a partner.
When the film starts, it has a rom-com tone that is quite infectious without being cheesy. The two characters, portrayed by Caroline Lindy and co-writer Nunzio Randazzo, have plausible chemistry and it’s easy to jump aboard the love train and want to believe in how perfect they are for each other. Their connection however—the amount of shared interests and oddly similar trains-of-thought—is too good to be true, and this slowly unfolding mystery, paired with excellent performances and dialogue, proves immediately compelling.
Careful with the editing and the pacing, Robbins introduces the sci-fi twist in a progressive manner, letting the audience get as confused as his two characters, as they slowly put the pieces together one by one. Giving us the right amount of time to digest the situation gives us the space to get a greater understanding of what lies beneath the surface of his protagonists in a more meaningful way.
The last act of the film is, to my recent memory, the most creative and interesting on-screen depiction of self-analysis I’ve seen. Robbins and Randazzo wrote flawed and genuine characters, which makes it all the more relatable to see both their best and worst sides exposed. The sci-fi component may be the top-level hook, but it is in service to the deeper themes of the film, and proves the perfect key to revealing the character’s true selves. Yes, there is the obvious examination of contemporary narcissism that is intensified by social media and modern dating, but it is fascinating to see characters confronted to their own BS and inner contradictions, and the realization that what we think we want might not be what we need verges on the profound. One line particularly stuck with me:
“I don’t want someone who enables me to be more who I am right now”
Alex is a simply produced film, but its smart script and interesting twist make it one of my recent faves. The film had its online release as a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere, and Jack Henry Robbins is already in the midst of his new project. After his previous VHS shorts Hot Winter: A Film By Dick Pierre and Painting With Joan (which I find ridiculously hilarious), he is returning to the anachronistic format with a feature length film shot entirely on VHS and cleverly titled VHYes! Oscilloscope is attached, and we’ll be monitoring it closely.