Alex Strangelove

Here Be Spoilers!

Alex Strangelove is a 2018 rom-com about a high school student who agrees to have sex with his girlfriend. He is a virgin, so, unsurprisingly, the thought of sleeping with her threatens to overwhelm him. There is also another problem – a gay friend has a crush on him, and he rather likes them. What will he do?

I started watching this film last week and, while I enjoyed what I saw, I didn’t feel invested enough in it to keep watching. However, when I picked it up again a day or two ago, I watched a little more of it very happily before watching the last 55 minutes in one go today.

It’s funny how that can happen – only to me? To others? I don’t know: I like a film but find it hard to carry on watching it until I actually do and then all is well. Maybe there is a level on which I don’t like it? Or am nervous about how it will turn out? Who knows.

Back to Alex Strangelove. It is a very sweet and engaging film. This is chiefly due to the actors who all inhabit their roles really well – I think here particularly of Daniel Zolghadri, who plays Alex’s clownish friend, Dell. The script is at its best with him.

Ah, the script. Hollywood’s bane. Alex Strangelove is a coming out story. For the most part, it tells Alex’s story well, if not brilliantly. Where it failed, though, I think it failed in a very annoying fashion.

At the end of the film, Alex accompanies his girlfriend, Clare, to the school prom. By this point, he has come out to himself and her as gay. They attend the prom together pretty much for old time’s sake. Except, Clare has invited Elliot, Alex’s crush, with the intention of getting the two boys together, because she knows they won’t manage it themselves.

After meeting Elliot, Alex is once again overwhelmed – this time by the people watching them – and he flees to the toilets to gather his thoughts. Elliot joins him there but when Alex is unable to commit to him, he leaves suddenly, I think in annoyance. Moments later, Alex catches up with his friend. They kiss passionately: it is the start of a, hopefully, beautiful relationship.

Good. But the toilet scene – that annoyed me. I dislike how the script makes Alex look like the ‘baddie’ for not immediately committing to Elliot and making him run after him in order to do so. I felt the script was saying you should not be in the closet; if someone falls in love with you, it’s only right that you go with them. If you don’t, you are acting in some sense badly.

Perhaps in an ideal world everyone would be out, accepted, and living their best life. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Some people are in the closet, and in the closet for good, or at least necessary, reasons. Alex Strangelove isn’t the first movie I’ve seen where I’ve felt that the script was subtly trying to push the viewer, if he or she was closeted, into coming out, and it’s very unfair.

If I had written the film, I would have kept the ending, but had the toilet scene take place earlier so that Alex had more time to process his thoughts, come to terms with his sexuality, and fall more deeply in love with Elliot. At any rate, I would have made Elliot more understanding of Alex’s position so that he didn’t leave so peremptorily.

That’s my gripe. I would rate Alex Strangelove 7.5/10. It isn’t in the first division of teen films (where John Hughes’ pictures reside) but is funny and gentle picture all the same. Worth a shot.

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