Review: Teen comedy ‘Alex Strangelove’ strikes the wrong chords
“Love, Simon” was an open-hearted and sensitive high school coming-out movie that became a modest hit and cultural phenomenon earlier this year. Now imagine that, but very obnoxious, with none of the nuanced empathy, and you get “Alex Strangelove,” written and directed by Craig Johnson.
It’s fairly suspect to refer to a queer love story as “strange” right there in the title (a play on the lead character’s last name, Truelove). Beyond that, the film is a scattered mess of high school movie tropes and tones, and has far more in common with “American Pie” than “Love, Simon.”
Daniel Doheny stars as Alex, the brainy, neurotic class president, who falls for his video production partner Claire (Madeline Weinstein). The couple want to consummate their relationship, but Alex is too nervous, and a monkey wrench is thrown into the whole affair when he finds himself charmed by Elliott (Antonio Marziale), an out gay teen from another high school. Is Alex bisexual? Gay? He starts to question everything.
The problem is that Alex, our troubled hero, isn’t remotely likable. He’s terrible to his confused girlfriend, parents, and even his crush, Elliott. Marziale, however, is a charismatic though criminally underused discovery, and the film provides a performance showcase for the winsome Weinstein. But “Alex Strangelove” is a deeply annoying failed experiment at melding a sensitive LGBTQ love story with the ethos of raunchy teen sex comedies.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; streaming on Netflix
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