Had I seen it before: No.
What IMDb says: Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) is a well-rounded high school senior with a wonderful girlfriend Claire (Madeline Weinstein) and a bright future ahead of him – and with plans to achieve his last teenage milestone by losing his virginity. But things get complicated when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale), a handsome and charming gay kid from the other side of town, who unwittingly sends Alex on a rollercoaster journey of sexual exploration, kicking off a hilarious and moving adventure of love, sex and friendship in our liberated and confusing modern times. Written and directed by Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins, Wilson), produced by Ben Stiller, Nicky Weinstock, and Jared Ian Goldman.
Requirements fulfilled: No new requirements fulfilled.
Why I picked it: After loving The Kissing Booth as much as I did (read my blog post here) I couldn’t help but wonder if Netflix has been harboring a massive stockpile of pleasantly surprising teen romcoms. The trailer for Alex Strangelove was playing on my homepage so I figured it was worth a shot.
What I liked about it: I like the character Alex. He’s charismatic, and he manages to be a realistic conglomerate of the cliches that typically populate these movies. He’s smart and super into wildlife documentaries but also not a typical “nerd.” He has friends, a cute girlfriend, and goes to parties. Yet he’s also not a jock or one of the obnoxious “popular kids” that are often the antagonist in teen movies. He wants to have sex, but also isn’t the total horndog that teenage boys often are in movies and tv. This multidimensional nature makes him feel more like someone I would’ve known and been friends with while I was in high school rather than a stereotypical caricature that only really exists in movies.
I also appreciate how likable Alex’s male love interest Elliott is. Elliot actually doesn’t really get that much screen time and yet I felt super invested in the Alex/Elliott relationship. Elliott never puts any pressure on Alex. Instead, he gives Alex the space to explore his feelings on his own times.
What I didn’t like about it: Now in general, I like to keep these posts pretty spoiler free but I HATE the way they decided to end this movie. It ruined any potential this movie might’ve had. So… about to come at you with some spoilers.
Alex ultimately decides he is gay and wants to be with Elliott, which is fine. His girlfriend Claire is initially super understanding. So far, so good. But then while Alex and Claire are at prom (as friends) Claire… DECIDES TO INVITE ELLIOTT WITHOUT TELLING ALEX. It’s supposed to be cute and romantic and we’re supposed to hail Claire as the wonderful friend who brought this couple together. She even says at one point “I knew you never would’ve invited him so I did.”
Just in case you saw this movie and might’ve gotten the wrong idea, I feel the need to say something. If anyone ever trusts you enough to come out to you before they come out to the general public, you are not, under ANY circumstance, to thrust them on a date in public without their permission. You are not to pressure anyone to come out before they’re ready. Just don’t do it. Ever.
The “happy ending” of this story is ultimately about so much more than Alex falling in love and ending up in a relationship. The “happy ending” is that Alex has learned to be comfortable with his own identity. Yes, it’s cute and cliche and typical Hollywood for Alex to have his moment with Elliott, but ultimately I think this distorts what could’ve been a far more powerful message. It turns the movie back into a run-of-the-mill romance rather than a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Alex has admitted he’s gay and come out to his friends, and his friends still love him. That is a happy enough ending as it is. If you want Alex and Elliott to end up together, have Alex decide he wants to pursue Elliot on his own. Maybe he dramatically runs out of prom and meets Elliott at another MUNA concert. But don’t take Alex, a character who has spent the entire movie trying to stand up to peer pressure and failing, and give him a happy ending because he finally succumbs to peer pressure.
Would I watch it again: Probably not, but if I would it would be with a friend to make fun of it.