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'Alex Strangelove': How Romantic Was That?

Bianca Rowena was born in Romania and now lives in Canada. She is the author of The Virgin Diaries and The Gift Stone YA book series.

You can’t help but envy Alex and Claire’s friendship...

Alex is a high school senior who is well rounded, smart, nice and secure in who he is, except that he's still discovering who he really is. This is something many people can relate to, either by having already gone through this self discovery themselves or still going through it, which makes Alex a character easy to root for. You can’t help but envy his and Claire’s friendship, from the beginning of the movie right through to the end. Ultimately, this movie is as much about friendship as it is about self discovery, love and fitting in.

Alex Strangelove is heartwarming, funny and moving, everything I love in a movie. Yet, it also has a few things I don’t like (a puking scene and substance abuse). But it doesn't deter from the overall heart of the film. The talent of the cast alone makes this well worth while to watch. Daniel Doheny (Alex) and Antonio Marziale (Elliott) were perfect in their roles. And Madeline Weinstein is also flawless in her role as Claire, the strong, fun girlfriend who doesn’t have a clue that her boyfriend is gay.

Alex Strangelove is witty, compassionate and enjoyable throughout; a charming movie and in many respects an enlightened one

— The New York Times

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It's refreshing how sex and sexuality aren’t taboo issues in this film.

For a teen movie, Alex Strangelove definitely has everything you’d want, and a few things that I didn’t think were necessary. I was a bit disappointed that the film rating was above my daughter's age level, she would have picked up some great insight on real friendship, positive self-esteem and finding acceptance, etc.

Unfortunately I wouldn't have let her watch it anyway, because of the strange drug trip (via a poisonous frog) Dell goes on, the drinking, use of weed (still an issue with some parents) and sexual content (my daughter is 12). She wouldn’t have liked the puking scene anyway and I'm certain would have walked off at that part. I was unclear as to why the poisonous frog drug trip was part of the movie. Was it to show that cannabis is so much safer and relaxing compared to poisonous frog (and other drugs)? I'm not sure what Craig Johnson was trying to put across here, if anything.

The movie would have been just as good without the parts that brought the rating up to R. And yet, the ‘first time’ sex scene with Alex and Claire is unavoidable and needs to be there, in all its embarrassing and unabashed awkwardness. It's an important part of the story, one that could not be skimmed over. This is where Alex begins to realize some things about himself, important things, and we see his struggle to force himself to conform to a sexual orientation that he expects himself to be.

It's refreshing how sex and sexuality aren’t taboo issues in this film. The teens don't approach sex as something that is 'bad' and therefore something they want to do to be rebellious. Instead, sex and sexuality here are approached by the characters in their own individual ways: Alex’s friends joke around and like to talk crude. Alex tries to plan and organize how his 'first time' will happen and has certain expectations of himself (being the Type A personality that he is). Claire, who is clearly ready for sex and comfortable with her body, is confident in her choice of partner and is willing to take things to the next level. Sophie, the beautiful Asian girl, is simply above the whole ‘sex is the most important thing in life’ phase of high school. And Elliott, is just comfortable with who he was, despite rejection from his family. He remains patient with Alex, giving him the time he needs to accept his true orientation.

The story comes across as very real and honest, as do the characters. They balance each other well and the actors all give amazing performances. Props to Craig Johnson for this well written script and for the on-point directing.

There’s plenty here that’s been done before... Johnson often appears to be setting up cliché scenarios only to tweak or knock them down... The outcome is clear from the get-go, but how the film gets there is believably fraught and much more risqué, verbally and visually, than a story of this sort typically dares.

— The Hollywood Reporter

The themes here are universal...

The nervousness and pressure surrounding having sex for the first time and no longer being a virgin in high school, is an issue that isn’t just faced by those who are gay or bi. The same goes for finding oneself and accepting oneself. That’s why I love this film. The themes are universal. I believe this is why Coming-Out movies are becoming so popular in the teen drama genre. There’s a deeper theme here, one of self-acceptance and tolerance. It generates deep within us because sometimes we need a movie like this to remind us we have ‘permission’ to be ourselves and to be comfortable with what we really want. This reinforcement is one we can all benefit from, the reminder that it's okay to be ourselves.

I found myself very emotional throughout this movie, the same way I was when watching Love, Simon. I appreciate these stories about having the confidence to take off social masks. We’ve come a long way in same-sex films, from the dramatic, shameful movies showcasing the injustice of homophobia, to fun, open, uplifting and heartwarming films like Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove showcasing the acceptance people hope to achieve in the world.

So How Romantic Was It?

So was Alex Strangelove romantic?

Most definitely yes! This film was very romantic, from the 80’s themed music throughout, to the joys of unexpected, newfound love. And all of this just in time for Pride Month!

Whether you're gay or not, I know you will enjoy this film, as both a ‘teen movie’ and a Romance. Alex Strangelove is one of the most romantic films I’ve seen in a long time. I give this film a romantic rating of 10/10. It had everything I enjoy in Rom Coms and it made me laugh and cry, more than a few times. Well done Mr. Craig Johnson! I can’t wait to see what you do next!

© 2018 Bianca Rowena