High School and Love
Alex Strangelove is a teenage boy who can’t wait to lose his virginity to his high school girlfriend, Claire; but it keeps not happening, and not because Claire is to blame. In fact, it’s Claire that reveals to their friends that she’s been attempting to de-virginize him for a year, and Alex keeps shying away. Alex is no alpha male; he’s smart and sensitive and vaguely neurotic. He thought he wanted to have sex with Claire but then not after he meets a very cute boy at a party that he can’t get out of his head.
Alex Strangelove is about a boy coming to grips with his sexuality, which may or may not involve actual sex. The love triangle between Alex (Daniel Doheny) and Claire (Madeline Weinstein) and Elliott (Antonio Marziale) feels very simple and pure and wholesome. Alex’s coming out isn’t going to be traumatic. His friends want nothing more than for him to be happy.
“Alex Strangelove” was written by Craig Johnson who also directed it. It seems as if it might be autobiographical. The title character, Alex Truelove, is a popular high school student dealing with great confusion about his sexual orientation. Alex has a wonderful friend, and eventually girlfriend, in Claire (Madeline Weinstein), with whom he makes Internet videos and enlists in light petting for school social events. Once Alex Truelove (his real name) Elliott, he begins to figure out why he has not had sex with Claire.
The kids in “Alex Strangelove” inhabit a comfortable, bright world. From the inventive costumes Alex and Claire concoct for their party appearances to the Brooklyn nightclub with a behind-the-stage window looking out on an elevated train track, their environment and its trappings are practically idyllic. The film is upfront in its treatment of teenage sexuality, with a lot of frank dialogue.
“Alex Strangelove” is witty, compassionate and enjoyable throughout; a charming movie and in many respects an enlightened one. There’s something a little disquieting about it, though. This is the third film I’ve seen recently in which a young white male protagonist struggles with his sexuality and walks all over a young woman’s feelings on his way to self-definition.
Otherwise, the film works beautifully because it shows real insight into the anguish of a teenager discovering his sexuality. What’s fresh is the total lack of homophobia in the school or anywhere else and the only negativity about Alex’s sexuality is his own internalized struggle.