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'Alex of Venice' a mash note to L.A. neighborhood
'Alex of Venice' a mash note to L.A. neighborhood

Chris Messina's "Alex of Venice" is as much a love letter to the Los Angeles neighborhood as it is a well-observed drama. Capturing a family in transition, the actor's modestly scaled behind-the-camera debut features subtle work by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the title role and an exceptionally moving performance by Don Johnson. If the story sometimes feels more schematic than involving, Messina propels the gentle action with a sure grasp of unforced emotional detail. In a welcome departure from showier characters, Winstead ("Smashed") plays an environmental lawyer whose life is jolted into new territory after her husband (Messina) splits, tired of the...

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