A new Netflix movie about a high schooler who's confused about his sexuality hits the streaming site on June 8, and it's bound to create a stir. Alex Strangelove tells the story of Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), a senior who seems to have the perfect life. Yet despite having an amazing girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein), a role as class president, and a close group of friends, Alex knows that something is off. And while Alex Strangelove isn't a true story, it'll most definitely strike a chord with anyone who's struggled to figure out their identity at some point in their life.
Writer and director Craig Johnson told Entertainment Weekly that the movie is "very personal," adding that while the film isn't an exact retelling of his own youth, “I describe Alex as the sexual confusion of my teens and my 20s crammed into one kid’s senior year of high school." According to Johnson, his past experience mirrors Alex's in the movie, including the aspect of having a girlfriend he loves despite his uncertainty over his sexuality.
When Claire wants to have sex with Alex — something he's put off for a long time — he can't comprehend his own apprehension. As Johnson explained to EW, "That came from a very personal place. I’ve had girls in my life when I was younger who I was very invested in emotionally, who I was in love with in very legitimate ways. If it weren’t for that pesky sex thing, hey, it might’ve all worked out differently."
Sex plays a big part in Alex Strangelove, and the movie gets at all the drama and tension that can play out in high schoolers' lives. Just like how Superbad chronicled two high school seniors' quests to lose their virginities before college, Strangelove will probably resonate with many viewers who've experienced a "virginity panic" of sorts, or peer pressure to have sex, at some point in their lives. In Strangelove, the pressure that Alex receives to have sex with Claire forces him to confront a truth that he'd buried from himself — that he actually doesn't want to have sex with her, and is sexually attracted to men.
While the movie obviously focuses on Alex's struggle to figure out his identity, it makes sure that Claire has a fully-formed story as well and isn't just a prop for Alex's self-discovery. According to Johnson, that was a priority for him while making the film. "It was so important to me to make sure that we saw Claire’s struggle and we saw the anxiety this was causing her and the heartbreak it caused her because, lemme tell you, us closeted gay boys would be nothing if it weren’t for our high school girlfriends and those girls who looked out for us at the time," Johnson told EW.
One of the best parts about Alex Strangelove is the way it captures the bittersweetness of growing pains. While Alex's journey to accept himself for who he is will undoubtedly make you root for him and sympathize with his struggles, you'll also feel bad for Claire, a funny and dynamic person who thought her boyfriend was as attracted to her as she was to him. It's a mixed bag of feelings that's fitting for a movie that's so true to life, and it's a great thing that Alex Strangelove doesn't sugarcoat any of its messy milestones.
As true to life as the film is, though, it also manages to include a lot of bizarre, hilarious moments along the way, including a psychedelic frog-licking experience. Hey, just because Alex Strangelove captures the complicated reality that many LGBTQ high schoolers face doesn't mean it can't also involve tripping out on frog-slime.