Alex of Venice (2014) Poster

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Indie Just Doesn't Ring True
larrys316 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I would have to say I was quite disappointed in this indie, as I'm a big Mary Elizabeth Winstead fan, and feel she's a most talented actress and always seems to bring an appealing quality to her roles. She stars here as Alex, a driven environmental attorney for Earth Now, and who's currently in litigation to stop the construction of a spa which may be damaging the surrounding habitat.

There's just so must Winstead can do here with a script that came across to me as being way too incredulous and nonsensical. For example, Alex winds up sleeping with the builder (Derek Luke) of the aforementioned spa, whom she meets by chance at a local bar. She, nor anyone else, gives a second thought to a conflict of interest with someone she's currently fighting in court with. Huh?

Also, when her husband George, played by Chris Messina who also makes his directorial debut here, decides to leave her and their 10-year-old son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner), because he's unhappy being a stay-at-home dad, Alex's father calls his other daughter Lily (Katie Nehra) to come help out with Dakota. No one seems to notice, till much later, that the free-spirit Lily, who "curses like a sailor", may not be the best influence on Dakota.

Then there's the father Roger (Don Johnson) who takes a part in a Chekhov play despite the fact his memory is failing and it looks like he will be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (for which no one in the home seems too concerned about). To top it all off, there's the anti-male stereotypes that all men are "fill in the blank", a theme interwoven throughout the movie.

All in all, although this film has some charm, at times, and the atmospherics of Venice, California are pleasing to the eye, I just couldn't buy into the storyline which, more often than not, came across to me as phony as a 3 dollar bill.
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An interesting yet unconvincing debut
Xander198921 April 2015
Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an environmental attorney, currently absorbed in what is possibly one of the most important cases in her career. When her stay at home husband (Messina) surprises her with the news that he needs some time for himself, she is left alone to deal with their son Dakota, her father (Don Johnson), the arrival of her free spirited sister and above all herself.

Alex Of Venice is Chris Messina's directorial debut. It was a pleasure to discover that someone who has been on the independent film making scene for some time had decided to step behind the camera. It is probably safe to view Alex of Venice as a starting point for Messina, who shows an unwavering dedication to the titular character as well as a strong focus, which allows him to maintain a consistent tone throughout the feature. There is a potentially powerful theme at the core of Alex of Venice. Dealing with the instability and vulnerability brought along by loss is where the director's attention lies. Yet, while Alex's struggle of having to juggle with much more than work related issues is immediately apparent, there appears to be little space for growth or introspection, making her overall journey unremarkable. Nothing seems to suggest that the 20 something year old protagonist might actually find a way to "reinvent" herself and be able to rise up to the challenge of being on her own for the first time. Alex's relationships feel for the most part underdeveloped to the point where it becomes difficult to view her being a mother, a daughter and a sister as significant elements in her identity. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does the best with what she is given, portraying a young woman who is destabilized in more ways than one by her partner's sudden absence. There might be an idea of a missed opportunity after viewing Alex Of Venice. As previously stated, it could be considered a not entirely convincing, yet hopeful starting point for Chris Messina's love affair with characters dealing with the hardships that result from changes that are as traumatic as they are unexpected.
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Alex of Venice
Argemaluco2 December 2015
For his debut as a director, actor Chris Messina made Alex of Venice, an interesting but not totally satisfactory drama which takes advantage of its main actress' big talent, even though she might have deserved more substantial material to work with. Don't misunderstand me... Alex of Venice is a competent drama with excellent performances and a realistic story which deals with difficult and emotive topics without employing Hollywood's false sentimentality. Messina's direction is fluid and efficient, lacking of any affectations and with a good eye to create an urban/bohemian atmosphere reflecting the contrasts of the Venice neighborhood in Los Ángeles. The problem/pro of the film is letting the story be developed through the main character's silences, as well as her subtle changes of expression. Needless to say, Alex of Venice counts with a tremendously expressive actress who fully dominates her craft in that role; but I think co-screenwriters Jessica Goldberg, Katie Nehra and Justin Shelton relied too much on Mary Elizabeth Winstead's talent, and they omitted important pieces of the narrative puzzle, making the movie feel... I don't know... incomplete and premature. The main thing which makes Alex of Venice worthy of a moderate recommendation is the perfect performances, not only Winstead's, but also the ones from Don Johnson, Skylar Gaertner and Julianna Guill. In conclusion, I think Alex of Venice represents a decent debut from Messina as a director which counts with a cast whose brilliant work is helpful to overcome the limitations of the screenplay to some point. I think Alex of Venice should have gone farther in the dramatic aspect, emphasizing the main character's evolution instead of getting distracted with peripheral events which obliquely contribute to the story, but without deepening enough on the main character's experiences.
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I thought the character roles needed to reversed
jrdeahl20 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
My first ever review here. I will be brief.

The leading lady had some character flaws that should have been given to the husband.

The husbands role was not believable. After 10+ years of marriage he said he isn't happy, then leaves the next day! Give me a break!

I mean, she is a practicing lawyer. She should know that drugs could ruin here career as a lawyer. A drug conviction can even keep you from being a teacher, let alone a lawyer. She ends up sleeping with a man she is fighting in court (ethics violation)! Not to mention she has not been legally separated or divorced from her current husband.

Both the wife and husband wear their wedding rings in the entire movie. Even thought the husband left on his own and didn't want to keep the marriage going at the end. He was the one that left the next day, he would have known he wasn't returning.

The husband left because they/he grew apart? It seems it would have been more likely that the husband would have had the affair, drugs and thrown out of the house.

I couldn't watch all of it, then just kept skipping ahead to the end.

I was disappointed, kind of like in Avatar when they flew down on top of the ships instead of just throwing rocks in to the ships vertical rotor blades!!! The father has the climatic fall, seems to have altimeters, then has all his lines in the play in the end, go figure!

Liked the leading lady though.
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A character study without character.
gorjusborjus28 August 2015
The attempt to portray Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as a woman in flux, forced by circumstance to "reinvent herself", was lost on this viewer. Instead, little was done to drag her out of the mire of self absorption. She takes everyone around her for granted, and is clueless about what is going on with the people with whom she shares a household, most importantly her son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner) . It was very difficult if not impossible to find any empathy for Alex especially when her husband George (Chris Messina) manages, at a distance, to know more about what's going on with their child than she does. Alex's sister Anya (Julianna Guill) is invited by patriarch Roger (Don Johnson) during George's absence for reasons never revealed, and thankfully so, as Dakota would be a footnote barely visible to the story line, (let alone his mother), without Anya's playful interactions and wise counsel. Rather than building a powerful thesis on family dynamics the film focuses on superficial distractions like getting laid or barhopping as solutions to the very real angst that accompanies dramatic life change. We don't ever know why Alex's work is so important to her, or why she cannot relate in the most basic way to her son, or how she feels about her husband, or why she thinks it's okay to expect that everyone else is responsible for managing the day-to-day tasks of raising a child and managing a career. Supporting cast do a wonderful job of carrying an otherwise lackluster character study to a predictable end. Unfortunately for Winstead, she is faced with trying to unearth profundity from the shallow grave where Alex's character is buried.
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Despite good intentions not well developed, one sided
pkpera25 November 2016
This should be at least some 20 minutes longer. From beginning I felt whole storytelling as rushed. Husband suddenly announces that he can't do it anymore, and leaves. But we couldn't see almost nothing why, how family was really dysfunctional. And it was so most time. I don't know who to blame more: writers or director. Probably both. It seems that director felt in love with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (MEW in further text), and focused on her all time - there was plenty of scenes with only her on screen. Actually, I can not blame him for that - camera loves her, and she was ideal cast for idealistic, as young dedicated to school, work type young woman. I watched this mostly because of her. Don Johnson was pleasant surprise in atypical role. Unfortunately, there is strong impression that male characters were not just lower time on screen, but presented as lower worthy. Still, it could be pretty good indie movie with better storytelling and more time. Was problem with budget or directors inexperience, I can't tell. Acting from MEW, Don Johnson and Skylar Gaertner was superb. Other did good job too. My rating is 6 - it was watchable, not boring, maybe simply because you can not stop to watch MEW :-)
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Almost There
dansview13 September 2015
I'll give the makers credit for a fairly original setting. It's a household with a house-husband, a retired actor father, a little boy, a black male buddy of the father, and a kooky, free-spirited sister in Venice Beach, California. The lead is an environmental lawyer.

Well, movie people write about stuff they can relate to. These characters are Godless, artistic, environmentally concerned, and unconventional. The viewer in Central Nebraska may not relate to them, but some of the themes are supposed to transcend setting.

Of course Venice never looked so good. The family lives on a quiet street and roams the area in peaceful bliss. In reality, that place is filled with homeless, druggies, gangs, and barflies. But the way it was presented was quite pleasing.

I like Chris Messina. He comes across as a thoughtful guy in his indie appearances, and also in this one as director and costar. The lead lady is beautiful when she has make up on, so guys will appreciate that. She can act too. Check out Final Destination 3. Don Johnson is excellent, and Chris Messina brings a gravitas to the screen.

The kid actor was perfect as well. He didn't have gratuitous cutesy scenes or dialog. You felt his sincere confusion over the drama in the household. The wild sister could have overplayed her role, but she didn't. She hit the mark.

As others have said, there could have been some more profound dialog about the meaning of life, but I thought the lead's closing argument in the court room scene was well-written. I also like the way they worked a Checkhov play into the story. It was supposed to parallel Don Johnson's character's predicament of growing old and being left behind.

Black folks will appreciate a wonderfully understated performance by Derek Luke.

Yes, I would have preferred more background on everyone. Where is Don Johnson's wife? Does the painter husband make a living? How did the lead get so involved with the environment? Give us a tad more about the sister. There was some attempt to explain her, but not enough.

How did Derek Luke's character make his initial money? There is also a small role played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. She looks great for her age. Almost the same as she did 30 years ago, although slightly heavier.

I'm glad they did not bombard us with an obnoxious soundtrack. Most of the background music is just a dramatic one-note hum to increase the feeling of intensity.

All in all, not a bad picture if you simply accept the fact that it's about people who some of us may not relate to. The performances are sensitive, gentle, and understated. The atmosphere is appealing, and the attempt to make some sense out of the chaos of changing lives was adequate if not memorable.
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Uneventful but admirable indie attempt by Chris Messina
ArchonCinemaReviews27 April 2015
Directed by actor Chris Messina, Alex of Venice is highly indie on the scope of indie-ness from the mundane plot to the uneventful conclusion.

Alex of Venice is so indie that its plot can be summarized like something out of a fortune cookie "do not resist the progress when your life takes a turn toward a new beginning." Seriously, Archon is not even trying to be cute in that little blurb. Alex of Venice is about a workaholic female attorney with a stay-at-home husband who must adapt when her husband suddenly chooses to leave the marriage. Not only must she acclimate to the added responsibilities of tending to the issues at home, but she must also adapt if she is to survive with her sanity intact.

Alex of Venice is not a comedy nor is it quirky in the way that indies typically are, it is just a straightforward drama.There is drama incorporated through Alex's work and legal pursuits, drama with her child, drama with her family, her love life and marriage. All in all, Alex's life is a real mess and is handling it surprisingly well considering.

The cast is a medley of producers and writers associated with the film and that translates to a general familial comfort between the cast. None of the characters in Alex of Venice are particularly captivating, and that is with our film critic having a girl crush on the lead in the film Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In a way, Alex of Venice is refreshing because the characters are loud enough to be distinctive but realistic enough to be genuine.

Alex of Venice is as much of a good non-event as you can get. It is all very under developed but not necessarily bad and I'm sure those who knew of it will watch it. But it is just not remarkable enough to recommend.

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"Alex of Venice". Mary Elizabeth Winstead shines once again.
jtncsmistad24 January 2016

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has emerged as one of my favorite actress's. Ever. She positively shines as "Alex of Venice" with yet another in a continuing string of organically enchanting performances.

This time she gives us Alex, a young environmental protection attorney whose workaholic overachieving has relegated her own family to virtual peripheral status. Alex's poignant reexamination of her priorities are at once engaging and heartbreaking as exquisitely brought to bear by the wondrous Winstead.

Chris Messina pulls double duty here. As Director, he shows a keen gift for extracting the essential nature from each of the film's fine cast. This includes Messina himself, as he delivers a moving turn in the role of George, a neglected husband who has ignored life's personal callings for far too many years.

Don Johnson is also simply superb and genuinely affecting as Alex's rough around the edges dad, Roger. Johnson's rendering of a washed up TV series actor playing a supporting part in what amounts to a community theater production parallels his character's succumbing to an insidious disease that threatens to rob him of his mental faculties.

Derek Luke makes an impression as a smoothly shrewd real estate developer who comes to reveal a soul more than capable of conveying compassion. And kudos to the great Jennifer Jason Leigh. While her presence is small, her big name is absent from the screen during "Alex"'s opening credits.

How often do we see THAT kind of modesty in Hollywood?

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script isn't that good
thenekassyni9 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
While I don't mind the acting at all and I think everyone did a great job I think the script is just too...fairy tale as someone said in their review. We have an smart but rather incompetent woman going through hard times when the husband leaves (takes a break) because he's being treated like crap. Although not divorce she goes on to sleep with others while still pathetically doing bad at everything else. She's suppose to be a workaholic but the movie doesn't really show this. She's even hitting on her client, that's desperation and rightfully so.

All in all, this movie is a one time watch and forget. I wouldn't expect too much from it. Characters are not very well defined at all. The sister's character is all over the place.
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Simple, Light, Enjoyable fare!
jkt20069 October 2019
I enjoyed this quite simple and straightforward story and script. The lead female character adds to the story and the script with her extremely natural performance and lets the movie flow smoothly. Yes, it could have become a deeper movie at many levels but that would also have taken away from the simplicity of the characters portrayed. I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it for a weeknight watch.
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Some self-discoveries come looking for you!
Reno-Rangan4 February 2018
Not to be confused with Venice in the title as the Europe's own Venice. It's a place in Los Agenles, USA. I don't know it is to be called a B movie or an indie, but definitely a decent drama with a decent storyline and cast. Indeed, it was about Alex, a middle age working and married woman with a young son. Her husband who takes care of the household, is now deserted them. So in her busy working life, Alex comes to realise the family bonding, particularly with her son. Then there's her dad and sister who are a troublemaker than any useful. So her life with a new perspective begins, like a self-discovery.

This is a directional debut for a supporting actor. He should be directing more films. I really liked it. It was simple and obviously realistic. This thing happens in the real world. So all I felt it was a reflection of someone's real life on the screen. Well written and directed. I liked the cast too. Mary Elizabeth was very good and so the rest of them. This is not an unexpected film, but with its limits it had narrated a fine story. The ratings are not fair. It's surely worth a watch and better than an average. I think only the adult would recognise it from its contents with similar experiences of their own lives.

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Much appreciated
pauliecorleone-7262820 January 2017
Simple, human-centred writing, honest depictions of the average Janes and Joes, and a Don Johnson coming out of nowhere to tug at my heart strings.

A story into which I could easily place myself, not because of any personal drama of the kind, but simply on account of the next-door familiarity of the characters and their most usual, run- of-the-mill predicaments.

This, without once finding it lacking in pace or boring; a true feat given my short attention span and my intolerance to wasting time. All in all, thank you for this unexpected little gem, Mr. Messina.
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Brief but compelling look at thirty somethings in crisis
Dunham1621 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Chris Messina's directorial debut is an insightful look at thirty somethings at the level of of crisis Checkhov penned in his final play, THE CHERRY ORCHARD. The tight ensemble cast is led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson, Katie Nera and Skylar Gartner, Messina giving himself principal cast status without much on screen time. Winstead plays a thirty something environmental lawyer prosecuting a lawsuit which many viewers of the film get the impression has nowhere to go. Her dysfunctional family includes a father losing it trying to get a part in a production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD, a ditzy sister who tries to help but makes things worse, an unhappy husband who leaves without explanation or or warning and a ten year old son who at first feels crushed but eventually figures out all of us go through crises in our lives and the stronger we are to surmount them the better our lives will become. Odd philosophical truth to assign a ten year old character but always fascinating even the eighty or so minutes between opening and final credits and the often single camera editing working well.
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Simple, pleasant and nothing more
arabnikita4 February 2019
To me, Indie movies are not really about a deep meaning or some moral lesson that is meant to be learned upon the conclusion of a movie. I mean its nice when it is there, but at the same time, I am perfectly fine if there isnt one.

Indie movies are about feeling melancholic, relaxed and careless. They are about forgetting your own troubles for an hour and a half and just enjoying the spectacle.

With Alex of Venice I got just that. Its a carefree movie with a central plot of a woman trying to piece her life together after her husband leaves her. It has its holes and misses in the plot but it was never meant to compete for academy awards. It was meant to be enjoyed for its simplicity and I did enjoy it.

The movie looks nice with good color patterns and nice soundtracks. Mary Elizabeth is pleasant as the lead and the supporting cast leaves nothing to complain about.

If you want to learn a big moral lesson and then write a thesis statement on how divorce affects young women, then this is not your movie. However, if you want to relax for and hour and a half and just watch a nice movie, then give Alex of Venice a shot.
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Melancholic sadness of everyday life
ScoobySnacks6623 August 2018
An air of melancholy permeates the film through most of its run time. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is solid as Alex, a workaholic lawyer and mom trying to save a rare species of frogs from extinction while working for an environmental agency. She lives with her husband and son at her father's house, a retired actor Roger, played by Don Johnson. The film opens with the family cohabitating peacefully in the doldrums of Venice California but things get ugly quickly as we learn George the husband, played by Chris Messina, isn't happy and wants to separate. Alex is left to pick up the pieces while her father's memory starts to fail, her son struggles with the rejection of his father's absence, her sister shows up and selfishly messes up her weak attempt to help out and her court case unravels. There isn't much to be happy about and the film feels heavy and depressing but does present some hopeful, nuanced situations at the end that suggest things might be okay in the long run. I liked the film but didn't love it. Worth watching for Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Don Johnson (who still looks great in his advancing years).
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Good job, mostly
vchimpanzee14 September 2017
I didn't see all of this movie. The listings said it started at 1:30 (and it wasn't this movie that was listed) and that's when the recording started. But there was already a movie going on. I could wait until I see it all, if it airs in the near future, but I might forget the details. So I'll give my evaluation now.

I did see enough to know these details. The film takes place in a beach community, and I saw signs that the town was called Venice. One of these signs is an actual sign saying Venice. Another is canals running beside houses. Alex is the boring, responsible and cute sister, and Lily is the adventurous rebel who looks like she works at a truck stop. Both are likable in their own way.Their father Roger is showing early signs of what could be Alzheimer's, but he is also appearing in a community theater production of a play which he may have written. I say may have written because there were a couple of details I missed and these may have been at the beginning of the movie, but from the way he was talking, I think he wrote it. 

Alex works for an organization that protects the environment. She has interviewed people who have shown her evidence that a marsh is being affected by work already done by Frank's company to develop the area into a resort. Frank argues that the people would rather have jobs and improve their status, but Alex is fighting his efforts, hoping the resort can be built in a different location.  . 

Alex's husband George wasn't happy and he has left. They have a young son Dakota, and George is making every effort to be a good father. Alex isn't quite happy with her life and Lily gives her advice, which is not really the type of advice the fine upstanding citizens should be following. But this is a movie so reckless behavior is acceptable.  

So will Alex find happiness? Will the marsh be saved? Can Roger get through his play, and how sick is he?

This isn't funny enough to be a comedy but there are some laughs.

I know Mary Elizabeth Winstead from her role in the quirky comedy "BrainDead" and there are similarities between her character here and the one in that show. I liked her there and, although I didn't see her name until the closing credits and didn't know why she looked familiar, I liked her here. She has several scenes where she is just looking at something, and somehow that's enough. One scene where she is high on drugs is effectively done. The scene really communicates how weird things are, between her wild performance and the lack of audio other than music which appears to be for our benefit, not music they are hearing. And while Winstead does quite well as proper and responsible, she does have to recover from that one crazy night and achieves that.  She also has to cry too, which is surprising, but it works.

Katie Nehra has her own style and a lot of enthusiasm. I like her too, as she shows Dakota a good time when he's supposed to be in school. I don't know what she does for a living, though that may have been part of what I missed, but I'm guessing it's nothing substantial, or perhaps she goes from job to job. In any case, she's never shown working in the part I saw. And I know how to describe her appearance. I got confused once when I realized there was an environmental problem and wondered if I might be seeing "Erin Brockovich". But she didn't look enough like Julia Roberts, and she never was the one fighting for justice.

I liked Skylar Gaertner as Dakota as well.

Derek Luke is quite charming as the developer when not being challenged, but he believes he is right and won't back down. 

I did recognize Don Johnson, but only in the sense that I thought Roger looked like Don Johnson, but not enough like Don Johnson to be Don Johnson. I haven't had a lot of experience with this actor, but I saw him in several movies and in a WB TV series about a flawed lawyer. His best scene is in the play, but he does well elsewhere too., particularly where Roger seems to be losing his mind. 

And regarding the play, it was just rehearsal, but at first I wasn't sure whether they were performing or the actors were being themselves just talking. That seems like good acting to me. 

An interesting technique in the courtroom: Alex faces the judge and looks at her opponents. I don't think we ever see the judge.

The presence of Dakota shouldn't give anyone the impression kids should be watching. There is sex talk which is a little naughty for TV, but let's face it. Most prime-time shows have gotten this bad. But just in case you see it uncensored, for me the sound went out a lot. 

It's certainly worth seeing.
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Lightweight slice of life drama set in Venice, California.
TxMike6 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is a story about a married couple that have started to grow apart. He is a struggling artist and she is a young high-powered lawyer working for a firm. As a result of their paths she mostly works, often long hours and some weekends while he mostly takes care of the house and their son. It is a role-reversal.

But one day he realizes that he isn't happy where all this is taking him so he decides he has to leave. For an unspecified time. Their son says he is gone to Santa Fe, where lots of artsy types hang out.

This is all complicated by her dad, late 60s or early 70s, living with them and who it seems is developing dementia.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Alex and her husband is Chris Messina, who also directs, as George. The dad is Don Johnson, actually about 65, as Roger, who gets a part locally in a play but seems to be having trouble remembering his lines.

All of these people have issues but they each seem to care about the others, they just don't always know what is a proper way to deal with everything.

There is not an "everyone lives happily" resolution here but each character learns something that will surely make the rest of their lives turn out differently.

We saw this on Netflix streaming movies.
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