Where Reality, Fiction and Satire Meet: A Is For Alex Finds Humor in Anxiety

Alex Orr is Alex Orr in his film A Is For Alex, a comedy about the anxieties of upcoming fatherhood and, presented in a comparatively offhand way, his disastrous efforts to save the world. Unique about the film is that it was not originally designed as a presentation to audiences. It originated as a therapeutic exercise for the real Alex Orr, who actually had a nervous breakdown about becoming a father. “We decided that he should go to therapy and we should start shooting it,” Katie Orr, the director’s on-screen and real-life wife, said of the film’s development. “This is a way to kind of make fun of ourselves and deal with it.”

The primary problem throughout the film is Alex’s inability to cope with the idea of being a father, and several times Katie finds him curled up and bawling over the situation. In between his breakdowns, Alex works to save the world’s ecology by developing flying robotic bees the size of Boston terriers, which buzz around the scenes without any acknowledgement from the characters until they uniformly fail. His mother, who posts on Facebook an inappropriate video of Alex when he was fourteen, ends up in jail. Consequently, while dealing with his own fears of fatherhood, Alex must face a class-action lawsuit from the catastrophe of his bees and seek out a lawyer for his mother’s difficult case. The comedy results from Alex’s preoccupation with fatherhood in spite of his other problems, the ease with which he is able to settle the bee issue—he just presents Coca-Cola with the idea of advertising on the moon and he is paid $45 million, which is promptly given over in its entirety to pay damages—and his mother’s persistent, natural cheerfulness and total apathy toward her incarceration.

“We would kind of scribble out the main point of the scene, but as far as specific words we didn’t do anything,” Katie Orr explained of the half-improvised, half-scripted work. The film, which was written as they filmed it, is largely based on real events (minus the bees and the accidentally criminal mother) and conversations that the Orrs experienced. “We were just shooting to kind of demystify me being a nightmare and didn’t really think it was a movie,” Alex Orr said, and the exercise successfully carried him through the nervousness. He adds that, “Now I love hanging out with my kid, it’s awesome.”

You still have a chance to laugh. A Is For Alex screens today, Sunday, April 13 at 4pm and is preceded by the hilarious short film Funnel.

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