By Kristin McCracken | The Playlist April 22, 2014 at 1:05PM
When actresses and audiences alike lament the lack of interesting roles for—and movies about—women as central characters, “Alex of Venice” should be held up as a shining example of what could be. The independent feature, which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Smashed,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) as the title character, whose tenuous grasp on her multitasking life is rocked when her husband (Chris Messina, who also directed) announces he is leaving.
Alex is a mother, she’s an environmental lawyer, and she’s also caring for her aging actor father (played by Don Johnson in a much-buzzed-about cameo), who’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. As she navigates her new (single) life, Alex dances around a romantic entanglement with her legal adversary (Derek Luke), and she fiercely tries to keep her 10-year-old son’s world grounded. Alex’s sister Lily (Katie Nehra, also one of the film’s co-writers) attempts to help out, but instead she just adds another layer of need. Winstead gives a lovely, understated gem of a performance—it builds, ebbs and flows, giving the film a solid emotional center.
The movie feels realistic, fresh and, ultimately, hopeful. Forget superheroes and vampires— this is a film to which women across America can relate. (A side note: the fact that the film was directed by Messina—currently en vogue as Mindy Kaling’s love interest on “The Mindy Project”—just makes us love him more.)
Winstead’s classic beauty is deceptively muted onscreen—she plays an Everywoman who could be the girl next door—but in person, she’s definitely a knockout. When we caught up with her in Tribeca this weekend, she was impressively tall, engagingly warm, and quite enthusiastic about this role and the caliber of independent work she’s been offered lately. We liked her immediately, and we’re confident you will too.