Daniel Doheny would like the world to know there’s nothing glamorous about filming a high school sex scene. “It’s the least sexy thing that could ever happen,” says the young star of the new Netflix movie Alex Strangelove (out today, June 8). “You’re basically naked with somebody else, and some hairy dude is standing there with a boom pole in your face.” But that’s also what sets director Craig Johnson’s refreshing, utterly charming teen comedy apart from its contemporaries: It has sex — bad sex.
Its plot centers around Doheny’s character Alex Truelove, a cephalopod-obsessed type-A nerd feeling the pressure to lose his virginity to his girlfriend, Claire (Madeline Weinstein). His peers have very few hang-ups about sexual identities, but he’s totally confused about his after meeting Elliott (Antonio Marziale), a confident older gay teen who smokes Alex up at a party and eventually woos him with an erotic lip-sync performance of the B-52s song “Dance This Mess Around.”
Sexual tension is key to teen rom-coms, but Alex Strangelove pushes the genre into something funnier and weirder. Scenes like the one in which Alex practices dirty talk with a stuffed monkey, or another in which his pal has a bad trip after licking a psychoactive toad and pukes gummy worms all over Alex, are as joyously vulgar as they sound.
Ultimately, though, Doheny wants the story to resonate on a deeper level. “People have said some really powerful things after seeing the movie,” he says. “Alex makes a lot of wrong decisions because he’s scared. I think everyone’s gone through high school and had trouble figuring themselves out.”