The Big Chill was one of those movies that just made you feel good. Which is slightly ironic considering the subject matter. As a modern remake intended to impose the formula on the modern twenty-something lifestyle, essentially telling the same story through a Gen Y perspective, About Alex kind of makes me wish I had been born a generation earlier.
Five former college roommates who have drifted apart since graduation reunite to support their friend Alex the weekend after he attempts suicide. Over two days of drinking and smoking pot, they reconnect and reminisce over old times, rekindling old flames, going over past dramas, and quickly realizing that, despite appearances, they don’t quite have it all figured out.
Part of me wonders what someone who hasn’t seen The Big Chill would think of About Alex. In my case, I was very preoccupied with figuring out who was supposed to be who from the original film and looking for call-backs and in jokes that might be hidden in the dialogue (I wasn’t disappointed–there were definitely a few, and not all as obvious as naming the dog Jeff Goldblum).
It is interesting to see the contrasts between the two. In a way, this film turns into a kind of commentary on how we differ from our parents. In the ’80s, your late twenties, early thirties meant married with two kids or trying to have a baby and settle down, where today we’re all single and dreading the idea of a pregnancy scare. The choice to have Alex survive the suicide attempt is interesting. Where The Big Chill has the dark tone of ‘too little too late’, focusing less on the character of Alex than what he represents to his friends, About Alex has a more hopeful, accepting vibe, perhaps a reflection of a generation more equipped to deal with depression and address the underlying issues.
Other quirks I appreciated: the tweet as the modern-day suicide note, Sarah’s constant need to document and share each moment on Instagram, and Josh’s rant about misplaced nostalgia. Max Greenfield was the perfect Jeff Goldblum stand-in, and Aubrey Plaza was also pretty great. In fact, the whole movie was incredibly cast.
My issue with About Alex may be more of an issue with my generation in general than with the actual film. Today’s twenty-somethings may be more tuned in to each others’ lives thanks to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, but there was something so much more genuine in the characters of The Big Chill. The way they talked, their comfort level with each other, and how they fell into a rhythm of being together so seamlessly even after drifting apart was what made the movie so lovely to watch. It made me nostalgic for those happy moments when you don’t even realize how much fun you’re having until later. Despite the excellent cast and pretty legit acting, About Alex just doesn’t have the same effect–there’s an awkwardness to the characters’ interactions, even though they’re meant to be each others’ closest friends. That, and the soundtrack just can’t live up to the original.
I guess comparison is the risk you run with a remake, but I admire the attempt to shed some light on the things that are shaping our generation and what makes us different from our parents. I don’t think this movie will define us the way The Big Chill did for them, but it’s a solid movie. Watch it, then watch The Big Chill. Then tell me what you think.