Written by Elaine Pope & Charles Shyer
Directed by Charles Shyer
Running Time: 1:43
for sexual content, some language and drug use.
Alfie was a so-so film that had promise, but faltered quickly.
Alfie is the bachelor of the new millennium. He has a different woman in every neighborhood in New York. There's Dorie, a married woman who sees Alfie as her only piece of happiness. Then there's Julie, a single mother who Alfie may love, but will never let himself get that close. There's Lonette, the former girlfriend of his best friend Marlon, who Alfie has a one-night affair that leads to serious issues later on. Then there's Nikki, the party girl who falls hard for Alfie, only to get booted out onto the mean streets. And finally there's Liz, an older, female version of Alfie. It is with this unlikely pairing that Alfie realizes the true promise of love, but it is a lesson he learns too late.
There is no question Jude Law is a talent, and his presence in a movie immediately makes it worthwhile. But when the material is such as it was in Alfie, he's trapped with nowhere to go. The movie started nicely enough. We get to see Alfie as he truly is, going from woman to woman with no remorse and at times, serious chauvinism. He can be rude, but he is always charming and that makes him likeable. It's when the movie starts to show the effect he has on these women, and Alfie's spiral downward, that the story starts to slow down. And when serious topics such as cancer and abortion come into play, you go from having a lighthearted comedic romp, to a movie that suffers under the weight of these heavy subjects.
I've never seen the original Michael Caine version of the film, so I can't say how close this remake adheres to it. I imagine it might have been more out there since sexual politics weren't as conservative as they are today. The fact that a character like Alfie exists at all today is a step up, but in order to make sure that we see that he is a bad, bad man and should not treat ladies like he does, the movie quickly makes him into the bad guy. Yes, he becomes the bad guy with a conscience, but it makes the movie very boring. The length of the movie is a normal 100+ minutes, but after the first half hour, it felt like it was dragging on forever. There's his cancer scare, his getting one of the women pregnant, his sleeping with his best friend's girl, his throwing one of the women out on the street in the middle of a storm. Had the movie started off as a drama, all of the things he goes through would have been acceptable and possibly entertaining. But when the hook of the film is that Alfie talks to the audience like they're on the trip with him, you immediately feel the film is going to be a comedy. And considering early on in the film he's talking to us while he's having sex, you certainly don't think the movie is suddenly going to go all moralistic and preachy.
As I said earlier, Jude Law is a great talent, and when the movie is funny, it's because of him. The talking-to-the-camera angle is a nice touch as it helps the story along and helps us understand him more. When he sweet-talks his next-door neighbor into cleaning his apartment, it's the perfect tone for the film; he's a charmer who has no qualms about using women for his own purposes. But then he becomes very sad and morose and suddenly he's like the friend you have who is fun at the start of the evening, but the more he drinks the sadder he gets until finally you just want to send him home because you can't take it anymore. The female cast members were all pretty good. Their roles were all fairly small, since none of them interacted with each other. Alfie went from woman to woman, only going back once or twice, so each woman had maybe 20 minutes of screen time. All fit their character types rather well, and it would have been nice to maybe get into more depth with one of them and dumping another. Each brought out a different characteristic of Alfie, but I never felt close with any of them.
The movie begs the question, what do women see in Alfie? They know the kind of person he is, yet that all continue to fall for him. Is it just his looks? His personality? The thought that maybe this woman will be the one that finally changes him? It is a question that is never answered. Instead the only questions that are answered are the ones inside of Alfie's head. Unfortunately, one of those answers comes from a man he randomly meets in a bathroom. It's the kind of chance encounter that feels extremely fake. Who meets a guy in a men's room, gets his card, and then calls him later as someone to talk to? I realize Alfie has no family in the area, but certainly there's some guy out there he feels closer to than a guy he met at a urinal? Or maybe that was the point, that Alfie didn't have anyone. Either way, it felt contrived.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Alfie was just so-so. I enjoyed the actors, but the story, which started off well enough, took a downturn quickly, and never recovered. It could have been a nice romantic comedy, but instead became too serious and depressing and a turn off.