The film was released in a limited release and through video on demand beginning on April 17, 2015.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Alex
Don Johnson as Roger
Derek Luke as Frank
Katie Nehra as Lily
Chris Messina as George
Skylar Gaertner as Dakota
Reg E. Cathey as Walt
Timm Sharp as Josh
Matthew Del Negro as James
Michael Chernus as Trofimov
The following have cameos in the filmJennifer Jason Leigh
Shooting began on 17 June 2013 and wrapped on the 17 July 2013. Filming took place on location in Venice Beach.
Messina has stated he was inspired, and influenced by several filmmakers that he has worked for before. "I would say Woody Allen and Sam Mendes were huge inspirations. [Woody] casts his movies really well and then he kind of lets you go. [...] With Sam Mendes, he said something that I quote constantly. He told me that every actor comes with a gift, and it’s the director’s job to let that gift out." Messina has also named Kramer Vs. Kramer, Hannah and Her Sisters and the work of John Cassavetes as "models for the film's quiet naturalism".
Messina directed the film back-to-back while shooting The Mindy Project. He has said about the experience, “That was maybe the dumbest thing – it was grueling, and I would never do that again [...] I’d be on set at Mindy during the day and then editing at night, and constantly on the phone during breaks.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was cast in the film on 12 June 2013. She says of the script, "I immediately loved it. It was one of those things where I cried like 5 times when I first read it. I just felt really connected to the role and thought it was so beautifully written."
Messina approached Don Johnson to play the role of Alex's father Roger. Johnson says he "wasn’t initially won over to play Alex’s father," but "Chris wouldn’t leave me alone – he came up to my house in North Los Angeles, and I wasn’t really looking to work, so I dragged him to my boys’ basketball game and made him watch, and he feigned interest." Johnson ultimately agreed, saying he was "intrigued by Messina's infectious passion" and "the material resonated with me because it had different tempos and rhythms."
Upon casting himself in the movie, Messina said, “I thought there were a lot of other actors who could’ve done a better job [...] I was scared to do both (acting and directing), but I wanted to do it to learn what it’d be like. Maybe two weeks out, I was trying to convince Jamie [Patricof, producer] to hire somebody else!” But both Nehra and Shilton hoped for Messina for the role years ago. “He was our only George,” said Shilton.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18, 2014. Alex of Venice was also shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival on May 8, 2014 and at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 6, 2014.
In August 2014, Alex of Venice was picked up by Screen Media Films for release in early 2015. The film was released in a limited release and through video on demand beginning on April 17, 2015.
Since its premiere, Alex of Venice has been received warmly by critics, receiving a 75% approval score, based on 28 sample reviews, on Rotten Tomatoes. Above all, the cast's performance has been highly praised by critics, with Winstead prominently singled out. Variety says, “Winstead gives an extraordinary performance in this uneven but pleasurably mellow indie.” Moviewallas.com adds, “A great deal of the film’s success lies in the casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the lead.” Screen Invasion notes, “Winstead is quietly stunning in all of Alex’s various circumstances, from bewildered, overwhelmed and frazzled, to focused, confident and accepting.”
Johnson also received praise for his performance, with Galo Magazine saying, “Johnson’s ability to slip into the skin of his characters [...] has been underrated far too long.” Messina’s directing has also been commended. The Arts Guild says, “Messina has created a film that does successfully look at a [character’s] growth out of chaos”.
One reviewer's complaint against the movie was that the script "many details behind." For example, "the audience is left questioning the plot from the get go."