by Natasha Theobald
Somehow, I expected something more. I knew the character of Alfie may well be fairly shallow, but I didn't expect life around him to follow suit. Alfie is self-involved, for sure, the center of his own universe. But, even as the foundation of his existence as such is shaken, nothing really scratches the surface. Sure, he chatters on ad nauseum about what he has learned and where he is going, but I found myself mostly tuning him out like white noise. If he doesn't really care, then why the hell should I?I love Jude Law. Even in movies that don't quite work, he gives the audience something to consider, something meaty to chew over. So, I was looking forward to seeing him in this leading role, as the driving force of this story. He is Alfie, a single and loving it cad who savors women like fine wine before disposing of them, for him, the empty vessels. He has lots of sex, much of it good. He has a job. He has a best friend. To him, this is living. While it wouldn't be my personal choice, I can see how a young guy in a great city might take a few years out to explore a certain level of hedonism. I am not completely unsympathetic, just not really mesmerized.
"Charmed? I'm not sure."
Alfie has the good fortune to attract many beautiful women to him. From a feisty Jane Krakowski to a sweet Marisa Tomei to a stunningly beautiful Sienna Miller, he can hardly complain. The two hook-ups with the most palpable chemistry (in terms of the movie), though, come in the forms of Nia Long and Susan Sarandon. These two each take a toll. Between them and a friendship with another man (Omar Epps), which he jeopardizes, Alfie does have some experiences of substance. It's what he does with them that doesn't much count.
My issues with the movie start with style. First off, the bulk of it is narrated by Alfie to camera. I started to feel a bit like him, actually, thinking the way I thought he might with some women. He talked too much. It was grating at times. Of course I enjoyed watching Law seducing the women, but I was tempted to watch with the sound muted. Between his constant yammering and the theme song, which I absolutely despise, Golden Globe notwithstanding, I longed for a little stoic silence, some mental respite.
Two (and too), I had some style issues with the way things looked. The color palette was off-putting to me. It was distinctive, to be sure, but it felt too stylized. I wanted grit, and they gave me glitz. I wanted reality, and they gave me nostalgia and a fairy tale. The billboards marked with single words like "Wish" and "Desire" were odd and ill-fitting. We get that the world revolves around Alfie, and we get that the movie revolves around Alfie. It felt too closed off to billboard themes or thoughts and made me claustrophobic in this Alfie-world. I hoped for something a little less contrived.
On the positive side, some of the scenes were absolutely gorgeous. The rain and the neon bar lights and the pool table with the great poster in the background and the way Law and Nia Long looked - it was all amazing. You just knew from the beginning that the table was meant for more than playing pool. In fact, all of their scenes felt truer and more real, somehow, like a better movie with honest drama crept in while she was around. Related to that, Omar Epps also makes the most of his time, giving a powerful performance that shouldn't be forgotten, no matter how minimal the screen time.
The style of the whole romance with Miller is interesting, as it is recorded and reported via split screen photos - another bold choice which worked well. I also loved a lot of the black and white photography. I first noticed the pictures in Julie's (Tomei) apartment, but the final credits were striking, as well. It made me wish the whole movie had been done that way. I would buy a book of those pictures before I would buy a DVD of this movie.I remember a movie with Jude Law called "Immortality" (or "The Wisdom of Crocodiles"). I didn't love it, but I find myself thinking about it sometimes, so strong was the impression. Perhaps my expectations were skewed by my desire to see Law take that sort of thing to the next level. Maybe my disappointment with the over-glossy simplicity of this tale is my own fault. It just felt empty and a little used up.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11120&reviewer=317
originally posted: 03/18/05 20:32:05