This is the movie review arena of Dave Mitchell and Trevor Taylor. We are fed up with stupid critics who pick the movies that nobody goes to watch. (BEWARE: PLOT-DETAILS/SPOILERS INCLUDED!!!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"Alfie"

(rated very "R" for sexual content, nudity, and language)

Plot Synopsis: Alfie Elkins (Jude Law) is a limousine driver by day, and a Casanova by night. This young Brit moved to New York because "the most beautiful women in the world live in Manhattan." The story (a remake of the 1966 classic of the same name, starring Michael Caine) follows Alfie's philandering misadventures, as he lives out his "European" values of "wine, women, and...well, that's it, actually." But rather than being simply a glorification of this "swinging 60's"-era lifestyle, the film shows that a life of carefree hedonism can have serious and sometimes harmful consequences. Ultimately, Alfie confronts the question of meaning, with the famous signature line from the original, "What's it all about?"

(The cast of "Alfie" includes Law as the title character, along with Omar Epps, Nia Long, Marisa Tomei, Jane Krakowski, and Susan Sarandon. And the guy who played Long Duk Dong in "Sixteen Candles." I love that guy.)

(Reviewer's Note: I'm going to go quite a bit deeper into plot elements in my review below than I would normally, because I doubt any of you will ever watch the film, so I wanted to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about throughout the review. Consider this your preliminary "spoiler alert." I'll warn you about the real spoilers as they appear.)

Dave Says: I don't remember what made me want to rent this film. Maybe it was Jude Law. Unlike certain Oscar hosts, I enjoy Law's work quite a bit. And knowing that the character was made famous by Michael Caine, I was curious how the subject matter would be handled. The original movie was made before the now-infamous Women's Lib movement, so immediately the idea of a playboy bachelor was sure to make half the audience bristle. I guess, if the playboy bachelor looks like Law, it's easier to swallow.

On the surface, this film looked like a glorification of free love, emotionless sex, and unbridled hedonism. And it is...for the first half hour or so. There is plenty of all three things scattered throughout the film, but not too long into it, we start to see the cracks in the statue, as Alfie would put it. On the surface, Alfie has it all together. He's like an amoral, promiscuous Ferris Bueller, skating by, avoiding disaster, and being ever the charmer.

This lasts him only so long. Then his thoughtless actions begin to catch up to him. (SPOILER ALERT: TURN BACK NOW.) First, he has a stupid, drunken tryst with his best friend's (Epps) ex-girlfriend, whom the friend is trying desperately to win back. The pair agree never to tell the friend, but when the girl finds out she's pregnant, they are faced with difficult choices. Predictably, they choose to have an abortion, to spare the friend's feelings. Unpredictably (and a bit refreshingly), there is a pretty clear feeling of remorse for the deed, on both parts. Not long after, the friend and the girl move away. (/SPOILER)

Alfie later deals with a cancer scare, the break-up of a relationship that meant more to him than he realized, and another broken relationship that may have made him happy. Though it's clear that he is mostly to blame for most of his problems, it takes a long time for him to realize that his lifestyle may not all it's cracked up to be. (True to the Mick Jagger song in the soundtrack, Alfie's "old habits die hard.")

(BIGGER SPOILER ALERT): Alfie later learns that the girl kept the baby, hoping it would be Epps'. As you can expect, this was not the case, but much to Alfie's amazement, his friend's love for his fiancee was strong enough to overcome the betrayal. In light of this example of love, Alfie is shamed and bewildered. He tries to pursue a deeper than physical relationship with an older woman (Sarandon) and ultimately finds himself "out-Alfied." (/SPOILER)

By the end of the movie, Alfie is asking the big question. Sadly, it's never answered.

I didn't expect too much from this film. But, as I said, I like Jude Law. What amazed me was that he portrayed this character with a depth of emotion I didn't anticipate. The film, despite its major moral blanks, is essentially a kind of morality tale, though one without a resolution. Alfie's selfish lifestyle leaves him empty and alone, and while it's never shown how he resolves this, the audience is left with the feeling that he will keep looking for answers. Whether he finds the right ones is certainly up for debate.

I came away from this picture surprisingly pleased. Unlike the original film, this one involves Alfie's "breaking the fourth wall" and speaking to the audience directly (often in the middle of conversations, like a Shakespearean 'aside'), as if narrating his own story. As I've said before, I'm always a sucker for this kind of meta-narrative. So that may have been an initial draw also.

(By the way, the sountrack is also really good. All the music was original, and was recorded and sung by Mick Jagger and a few other musicians. Amazingly, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.)

There is plenty of objectionable content in this film, so I can't give a recommendation in its theatrical format. There are several sex scenes, with varying degrees of explicit-ness, as well as some nudity. There is also language.

But there is a lot of good food for thought in this film too. My best recommendation is that if this movie is ever shown on TV, with the explicit content removed, I would recommend viewing that version. I'm fairly confident the film would be the better for it.

Dave's "Rock On/Walk Out" Rating:
"Walk out for now. Alfie, don't rock on until you clean up your act, dude. See you on TBS."
Comments:
gee, dave, what a thoughtful and interesting review. thanks for taking your ENTIRE LUNCH HOUR to write something that is clearly so appreciated by the reading public.

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