Jason Ritter on 'About Alex' & Why It's Not 'The Big Chill'
When superhero blockbusters and action-packed thrillers take over the movie theaters all summer long, it's easy to forget that they're not the only films that get released this time of year. In-between the X-Mens and the Guardians of the Galaxys are small, intimate indies, character-based films without a city-wide explosion or CGI effect in sight. Already this summer, there's been Magic in the Moonlight, Boyhood, and Begin Again, and, on August 8, About Alex , a dramedy about a group of old friends' weekend reunion, will be the latest addition to the list.
"Something about it really struck a chord," Jason Ritter, who plays the film's titular character, tells Bustle. "I just thought it was really beautiful and complicated and fascinating, and I believed all the characters."
Ritter, an actor primarily known for his TV work on shows like Parenthood and The Event, was especially drawn to the character of Alex, whose attempted suicide is the impetus for the group's reunion.
"I was really intrigued by Alex," he says. "It’s funny, because when we first were making this movie, it had a completely different title. So even though everyone gets together and they’re all concerned about Alex’s attempted suicide, your focus is not necessarily drawn to him from the title alone. So one of the things I thought was interesting was, here are all these characters coming to help out their friend, and so much of the movie, Alex doesn’t say very much. I was really fascinated by that, by the idea of someone who is more comfortable listening, and who obviously has a lot going on and probably could say a lot, but is content rather just being around and being a witness to his friends and their happiness."
The basis for the film, too, a handful of characters stuck in a setting where old tensions are bound to flare up, also appealed to Ritter, and not for the first time; in May, he starred in The Big Ask , another ensemble dramedy about the reunion of old friends.
"I love the complexities of a group of friends," he says. "So many times in other things it's like, this is the love interest, this is the person you’re attracted to, this is your best friend, and that’s it. And in this, and in other movies, you have a very specific relationship with all other five or six characters, and things come out of it that are interesting."
"But I also like the isolation aspect of it as well," he continues, "just being stuck in a room with a bunch of actors, and everyone’s trying to figure out where they fit in."
Although Alex moderns-up its dialogue with filled with references to hashtags and Instagram, much of it is reminiscent of '80s films like The Big Chill, remembered for its enclosed location and "when did we grow up?" sentiment. It's a purposeful choice, and one that the filmmakers don't shy away from making reference to in several of the movie's scenes.
"I thought that was a nice touch," says Ritter. "Instead of trying so hard to find something 100 percent unique and new, and in the process lose any kind of sincerity, just going, oh, some things happen to people that are similar experiences to things that have happened to other people... to to me, it’s all very true."
And, like The Big Chill, About Alex features an impressively strong group of actors; in addition to Ritter, there's Parks & Rec's Aubrey Plaza, New Girl's Max Greenfield, and Lost's Maggie Grace, among others.
"It's a great group of actors," Ritter says. "We had a really great time."
About Alex, directed by Jesse Zwick, comes out Friday, August 8. Check out the trailer below:
Image: Screen Media Films (2)