I’d have never guessed that Alex of Venice is Chris Messina‘s directorial debut. The film, which stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson and Derek Luke, is so delicate, sweet and assured that I’d of thought it was the work of someone who’d directed before.
Alex is about a workaholic attorney (Winstead), whose husband (Messina in a small role) has just left her and the family. He can’t be “her housewife anymore,” he tells her. So, she’s now got to deal with her aging father (Johnson), a formerly successful actor who is still hunting for that next role, her sister (Katie Nehra) and young son (Skylar Gaertner).
She relied on her husband so much, that she’s finding the little things suddenly difficult to handle. Who is going to cook the steaks at her dad’s birthday party? Who is going to pick up her son from school? On top of that, she’s working on a big case that she really wants to win.
In the midst of all this, she throws responsibility out the window and begins to feel her oats a bit. We’ve all been there, faced with something huge, we chuck it all and worry later.
Things might not end as we (the audience) would like but writers Nehra, Jessica Goldberg and Justin Shilton don’t
Winstead is terrific as Alex and I feel like this is her best performance to date. There isn’t one scene that isn’t perfect.
Same goes for Johnson. I love how he’s been having this renaissance lately. His aging actor just got a part in Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, yet it seems that he’s afraid of the role. “The lines aren’t sticking,” he says. Turns out that he may (or may not) have early Alzheimer’s, we never find out.
One issue I had was Reg E. Cathey, who plays Johnson’s friend. He’s, as usual, great but I had no idea why his character was in the film or who his character was even supposed to be. There’s no mention of it anywhere in the movie. Heck, he’s not even listed in the IMDB credits or anywhere in the website.
I’ve always liked Messina as an actor; he can liven up even the tamest scene and now, it looks like he can do the same behind the camera.
Alex of Venice comes out on VOD and in a few select cities April 17th. For more information, click here.