by Laura Kyle
ALFIE is one of those films in which the audience knows exactly where the main character is headed. The story is not masquerading as anything different than a blatant character study - a predictable chain of events will eventually lead to a clear moral and lesson. So, that is why it is absolutely necessary to cast the perfect lead, or else one has an uninventive plot that might as well be replaced with a lecture or sermon.Writer Bill Naughton, who spawned the original play and movie, in his revised screenplay at least - does not dabble too much in clever surprises, hidden themes, or other artistic choices that might otherwise divert his purpose, which is to show one man's journey of self-discovery. Director Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride) does not waver in his focus either.
"As appealing and simpleminded as its main character."
It makes sense that the title character, Alfie, narrates the entire drama, and not in a voiceover, but right to the camera, and is also in every scene. However, one can only hope the actor playing Alfie can handle completely carrying a movie, for well over an hour. If he falters, for even the slightest second, everybody is going to notice, and nobody will forget.
Luckily, Jude Law is Alfie. It is probably safe to say Law's smooth track record of picking solid films and giving flawless performances in them, has yet to be tarnished. And with Alfie, his biggest endeavor yet, I smell an Oscar nod on the horizon, though I may be in the minority here.
Law manages to come off as irresistible and charming, though completely unforgivable, as cocky, selfish womanizer, who expects thank-yous from the lucky ladies he sleeps with, and makes no apologies for his careless life as a bachelor, even using his good looks to get an older, neighborly lady to clean his apartment for free. Law's effortless grace with his female co-stars (who include some big names: Marisa Tomei and Susan Surandon and some new ones: Sienna Miller and Nia Long) mixed with his utter bewilderment and second-guessing about his resulting unhappiness and his eventual reevaluation of his life, is one Law takes seriously - with caution, attention to detail, and ultimately, that old-fashioned charisma. He has created a character worth rooting for.
Do not be mistaken, while Alfie is not lacking in beauty, sexuality, cheeky humor, and style, it really is so bent on producing a tidy character arc, that its reliance on atmosphere, dialogue, or even the tiniest bit of romance, is minimal. The supporting cast is attractive (and hardly overshadowed), and a few laughs pop up, but they are not what will make Alfie special or memorable. I mean it when I say this is Jude Law's baby. How it compares to the 1966 version starring Michael Caine, I can't tell you, on the account that I haven't seen it. The only thing I can compare it to is Hugh Grant's 180 character turn in About a Boy, and perhaps About a Boy wins... but that's a tough act to follow.
A moviegoer may find themselves going, "well, duh," at Aflie's message, but it doesn't mean they will expect Alfie to do the same… it is clear he has somehow gotten away with disrespecting women for quite a while now. And only when he meets his superficial match, will he fully discover where he went wrong.
Most of the criticisms circulating around Alfie are that it doesn't match up to the original, and fails to communicate itself with complexity and depth, seeking the easier road of simplicity (decorated with bland sexual innuendo) and starring a character unworthy of audience sympathy, but I beg to differ. I think Law saves it – and is entertaining enough to warrant a trip to the theater.Where ALFIE really triumphs, is in its quiet, touching moments of its main character's confrontation of his own misery, and it is as though every other part of the film is only a set-up for Law to gradually break down and rethink his habits. After all, what is it all about?
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11120&reviewer=369
originally posted: 11/08/04 05:35:41