Joe Swanberg's tiny 72 minute "Alexander the Last" is one of those slight mini-indie films that might splash on the film festival circuit but struggle with a wider audience. While I had not seen Swanberg's previous efforts, I had heard nice things about his potential and style. So I had really hoped to rave about "Alexander The Last." With so many great attributes, however, the film seems so disjointed and lacks a cohesive plot and/or character thread to tie these disparate elements together. Ultimately, I felt the film had several very nice moments, some authentic truths and yet had nowhere to go with them. Vaguely or completely unsatisfied at the end (I haven't made up my mind), "Alexander the Last" ultimately seemed more of a experimental exercise than a fully formed film.
At its best, "Alexander the Last" showcases a terrific and believable portrait of sisters. Playful, with a language of their own, when Jess Weixler and Amy Seimetz share the screen--you see where the focus might have been placed to create a better narrative. Weixler is a married stage actress who starts to feel an attraction for her new co-star. She introduces him to her sister, and they get sort of involved. When her husband comes home, it's kind of awkward. Swanberg taps into so many valid emotional moments, but seems content to leave them all relatively unexplored. Is this about sisterly jealousy? Inappropriate attraction? Marriage? Heck if I know, the focus is ever changing.
Look, I don't need everything spelled out for me. But once the film starts to achieve some dramatic momentum--guess what? There are endless stretches with zero dialogue. I'm never one to say "no" to sex scenes but I guess I'd have preferred the time spent on character motivation. If things aren't bad enough, then we get two extended musical montages to take up time without adding depth or import. As "Alexander the Last" meanders to the end, several characters all but disappear which adds to the confusion about what the film was trying to say. A vaguely obtuse and "arty" closing scene doesn't help matters. I think Swanberg has talent and I loved parts of "Alexander the Last," but it lacks focus. Without that focus, it thus lost any real meaning--for me anyway. KGHarris, 1/11.