Venice, California, which was the center for the Beat generation in the 50s and 60s, has always had the reputation of being a hangout for the creative and the artistic. It still lives up to its tradition of progressive social change. Well-known personages have been residents of Venice at one time or another, such as Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Angelica Huston, Robert Downey Jr., and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few.
Artsy neighborhoods, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and cafes, as well as numerous sports venues, provide the playful atmosphere which is conjured up when one hears a reference to Venice or Venice Beach. Perhaps this setting is what the writers wished to project when they named their film “Alex of Venice.”
Venice Beach, CA - Wikimedia
For Alex (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is definitely a product of that sort of environment. With her husband’s encouragement, she continued her education after their marriage, and landed a job as an environmental attorney. George (Chris Messina) became the house-husband, caring for their ten-year-old son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner), and making certain that Alex’s father, who lives with them, remembers to take his pills. George had the task of attending Dakota’s teacher conference and was told by the teacher that Dakota was withdrawn and a loner, and asked that his parents encourage Dakota to interact more with his fellow students.
Alex’s History with George
Alex and George married when they were eighteen years old because Dakota was on the way. They accepted their lot and Alex, at least, continued to forge ahead with a successful career, hardly noticing that George was growing bitter. He finally took off, leaving Alex unprepared to take on responsibilities that she had never had before.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Wikimedia
Roger is Becoming Forgetful
Alex had not noticed either that her father, Roger (Don Johnson), was becoming forgetful. That was George’s department. Roger was a former television actor whose career had waned in his later years. He decided to audition for a part in Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” which was being cast by a local theater group. He was hoping to play the leading man, for which he prepared his audition. Instead, the director asked him to take the part of Firs, an elderly servant, which was a put-down in Roger’s mind. However, he accepted the role.
Alex’s Sister Lily Comes Back to Help
Alex’s sister Lily (Katie Nehra), a former drug addict, came back to help out with the situation as best she could. She suggested to Alex that she should get a new man in her life. Alex resisted this advice since Roger was the only man she had ever been with, and would not know how to go about it. Lily, a clothes designer, loaned Alex some of her outfits and gave her some pointers. Without informing Alex, Lily permitted Dakota to skip school for a week so that they could go to the beach, the amusement park, and take in the entertainment that Venice had to offer. When Alex learned from Dakota’s teachers that he had not been in school for a week, she and Lily had a huge argument, and Alex realized that she would need to have a larger part in her son’s life.
Jennifer Jason Leigh Wikimedia
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Alex’s boss at the law firm was a female named Maureen (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who was bothered by Alex’s personal phone calls which interrupted the flow of their day. It is a surprise that an actress of the caliber of Miss Leigh would take such a small role, which required her to speak a maximum of four lines in the film.
Alex’s Lawsuit to Save the Wetlands
Alex’s latest case involved a lawsuit to save some local wetlands from a takeover to turn the land into a huge complex involving apartments and commercial businesses. The development was destroying the tadpole population in the wetlands, the only home supportive to the life of certain plants and animals.
Don Johnson - Wikimedia
Alex Stays Out All Night
On an evening out at a night spot, wearing Lily’s dress, Alex was approached by Frank, the entrepreneur who was being sued by Alex’s firm for his destruction of the wetlands. They spent the night together after Alex admitted to Frank that she had only been with one man, her husband. When she reached home in the morning, she told Lily that she had been working late at the office and fell asleep. Lily saw through the ruse since Alex was dressed for a night out.
Alex Tries a Drug When She Loses the Case
When the judge ruled against Alex’s suit, she was sorely disappointed and was encouraged by her male colleague at work to take the drug ecstasy to make her feel better. The effects lasted a long time with Alex, who had apparently reached rock bottom. Alex’s husband George returned home at that time and was kind enough to nurse Alex back to normalcy. He stated though that he would always be there for Dakota, but would not return to live with Alex. They both assured Dakota that he was loved deeply by both of them and that they would never change.
Roger’s Difficulty with Memorization
Meanwhile, Roger had been having difficulty memorizing his lines for “The Cherry Orchard,” and was still “on book” while the other actors had their lines down pat. The viewer is stricken with tension by having the sense that Roger may be fired for not having memorized his role.
When Alex found Roger at home putting his shirt on his feet, she made an appointment for him to see a doctor. He had to undergo a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to determine whether he might be developing Alzheimer’s disease. The results of Roger’s test were not revealed, but the evening of the play’s debut arrived, and tension built again as Roger answered his cues. Fortunately, he was successful and received resounding applause for his efforts.
Chris Messina Wikimedia
Dual Roles in Alex of Venice
Chris Messina, who played the part of George, was the director of “Alex of Venice.” It was his first attempt at directing. Katie Nehra, who played the part of Lily, was a co-writer of the film. We look forward to these neophytes presenting more of their work in the near future.
The film was somewhat predictable. It had the essence of a first effort. The acting was above average, but the script told a story which was bland and mediocre. It will be interesting in the future to note whether the participants learn from their mistakes and begin to produce higher quality products.