SXSW Snapshot: Joe Swanberg’s “Alexander The Last”

SXSW Snapshot: Joe Swanberg's "Alexander The Last"

Joe Swanberg’s earlier films reveled in aimlessness to achieve their thematic intentions. As characters hung out, had sex, and talked about the pithy details of their twentysomething lifestyles, Swanberg would gradually assemble portraits of relationships that naturally arose from the settings. That was the idea, anyway — at best, a movie like “Hannah Takes the Stairs” can make real people seem legitimately entertaining without the crutch of Hollywood contrivances. His follow-up, “Nights and Weekends,” worked around an unsettling breakup story with mixed results. At times it felt too open-ended , or too self aware, but occasionally Swanberg hit on an enterprising synthesis of visual clarity and poised observation of human behavior. In his latest feature, “Alexander the Last,” he finally makes that combination work.

The movie isn’t a huge step for Swanberg so much as a smooth elevator ride up from his previous works: the sex, the chatter and the romantic despair all have a familiar ring. Instead, Swanberg’s has vastly improved his production values, yielding a far more cogent narrative. The story of married Brooklyn actress Alexander (Jess Weixler), whose role in a play causes her to become attracted to her co-star (Barlow Jacobs), the movie focuses on subtle temptations. While her husband (Bishop Allen singer Justin Rice) goes on tour, Alexander tries to set up her co-star with her rambunctious sister (Amy Seimetz), inadvertently setting up a love triangle in which she participates. Most of “Alexander” explores the gradual acceleration of tension between the sisters, at times making the movie feel more like a thriller than some kind of romantic drama. It’s hard to identify a genre for the movie since it continually defies expectations.

Although few scenes seem a bit misplaced (one where the siblings imitate baby sounds sort of irritated me), “Alexander” generally develops with a swift pace and credible performances. It’s a truly cinematic achievement, gorgeously shot by Swanberg with intriguingly symbolic mise-en-scene. He has made an authentic feature-length movie, not a mere accumulation of moments. The results — finally! — illuminate his strengths as a director. Now we know what he was going for in the first place.

(Check out a trailer for the film and an interview with Swanberg here)

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So amazed that That was the idea, anyway — at best, a movie like "Hannah Takes the Stairs" can make real people seem legitimately entertaining without the crutch of Hollywood contrivances.

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derek

Swanberg’s work is great, i love watching his stuff.

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spring88

Joe Swanberg’s film which I have saw several department, each film gave me a deep sense of education. He is not an extraordinary actor, although sometimes his films at the box office is not high, but in my eyes, he is great, I will always support him!

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Blake

Piece of crap frankly… the director seems to be amateurish… snapshot review alexander the last

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“Alexander the Last”? is it really a movie, this the first time i heard about it. This one sound interesting, let me check the movie shelves and find one. Thank you.

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tommy345

Its also worth remembering that in the same way that characters age, their audience age too. If the story lines don’t develop then Swanburg might alienate the original fanbase

andy007

Swanberg’s work is great, i love watching his stuff.

tolo87

All in all, this is great movie.

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I think Swanberg’s work is great, i love watching his stuff.
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Marlet

He finally got there in the end. I always thought Swanberg was a decent director, but this film will definately get him more of the attention he deserves, and maybe a change to direct a blockbuster movie sometime soon :)

kostas21

Joe Swanberg shows his qualities as a director once more. Angela, you are right in my view.

rr2009

Pretty true when it comes to few scenes they really do seem a bit misplaced. I’ve been following Swanberg and I wasn’t really sure what he was trying to convey with this movie. However there were instances when I did see some points. Overall I’d say ok.

Stephenchpl

Good to see Swanberg latest doing well. I enjoyed the movie. For an independent film maker, it’s not easy to get notice. Selecting Jess Weixler to play the main character helped this movie succeed.

-Stephen

parid07

At best, a movie like “Hannah Takes the Stairs” can make real people seem to be good. Although few scenes seem a bit misplaced it was nice

parid07

At best, a movie like “Hannah Takes the Stairs” can make real people seem to be good. Although few scenes seem a bit misplaced it was nice

tolo87

The movie isn’t a huge step for Swanberg so much as a smooth elevator ride up from his previous works: the sex, the chatter and the romantic despair all have a familiar ring. Well I guess that this looks like a great movie to me. Mike

Dynam

it is those subtle thoughts and feelings in a relationship, that is difficult to catch in a movie. I think Alexander The Last do a good job if we think the movie in this term.

OhReally

I suspect you’re probably right Angela, but I still think it looks interesting. I will give it a chance. At any rate, I think Swanberg’s character are usually not all that likable, which can make things interesting.

Tom

alagausun

At best, a movie like “Hannah Takes the Stairs” can make real people seem to be good. Although few scenes seem a bit misplaced it was nice

AngelaE8654

As the characters age, this type of plot won’t work. They will have to “fill out” the lives of the people; “hanging out” doesn’t work when twentysomethings turn into thirtysomethings.

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