Film Reviews

ALFIE

By • Nov 5th, 2004 •

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Paramount Pictures / A Charles Shyer production / R-Rated / 101 minutes

QUOTE: Jude Law delivers. He’s sexy and an intensely engaging actor.

Who remembers the 1966 film starring Michael Caine? I certainly have no interest in comparing remakes. Each film must stand alone. And, since you’ll be paying to see this movie, there will be no comparison here. Alfie (Jude Law) is a sexually confident limousine driver in New York City with a severe emotional flaw: He enjoys being desired by women and takes full advantage of his appeal. He does not want to be tied down to one woman. There are just too many beautiful women in New York City to enjoy.

Alfie talks directly to us in an intimate, confidential way. We can’t help but like him. He’s so honest in a childish way. He wants us to know what it’s like being him – he is irresistible. He is adorable. He is not a creep. When he flatters his fat, old neighbor, it’s harmlessly cute. She is not being taken advantage of. He’s not hoodwinking her for her social security check.

Alfie enjoys being wanted by attractive women. He has no ambitions other than to make some money and go out with girls. He is perfectly happy with his motorbike and tenement studio apartment.

Alfie doesn’t pick on lonely women. The first “conquest” we see him with is Dorie (Jane Krakowski). She is married and despises her husband, who hasn’t touched her in six months. She uses his money to hire Alfie’s limo services for a few hours every week. She knows the score with Alfie but when she presses him for a “sleepover at his place” he has to end the relationship. But he does it gently and with a compliment.

Next is Alfie’s quasi-maybe-sometimes-girlfriend Julie (Marisa Tomei), a single mother with a young son. Alfie understands that he is getting attached to the boy and knows that this is not a good thing. Julie is smart enough to figure out that Alfie is not the man to be a father to her son. She decides to move on.

Lonette (Nia Long) is Alfie’s best friend’s and intended business partner Marlon’s (Omar Epps) very recent ex-girlfriend. No doubt about it, Alfie and Lonette have a very sexy bar room scene resulting in an evening of passion. She immediately goes back to a sorrowful Marlon who asks her to marry him. Alfie, in a state of shock, admits the turn of events relieves him of any guilt. Then she gets pregnant by Alfie.

After Julie’s attempt to domesticate Alfie fails and Lonette runs off with Marlon, he goes out and meets the crazy, has-it-all party girl Nikki (Sienna Miller). She has everything Alfie wants. But she is crazy, violent, and dangerous. I don’t like the gorgeous Sienna Miller – but this is a jealously thing only other women will understand. This is also a stunning American debut for Miller reminding us of those heydays of British glamour girls Julie Christie and Maryanne Faithful.

Then Alfie meets an older woman, the sexually provocative Liz (Susan Sarandon). Of course she is an independent, rich businesswoman with many suitors. She exploits her allure and wealth. Alfie starts to like Liz and her decadent lifestyle – they drink smuggled absinthe. Liz devastates Alfie with her careless dismissal of him. He gets a taste of what it is like to be a disposable plaything.

Alfie goes back to see all his “conquests” and realizes some truths about his selfish life. So there is a moral and, by the end of the film, Alfie is punished for being self-centered, crass, and beautiful. We can leave the theater happy his life is messy, cluttered and he is lonely.

It has taken awhile for Law to exploit his cinematic sex appeal and acting skill. It’s not easy to talk to the camera, say crude things, and still be delicious. Yes, Law was the pivotal excitation driving THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY but he’s had more misses than star-making showcases. Here he oozes charm.

Director Charles Shyer likes all these characters and no one’s dignity is shattered. Screenwriters Elaine Pope and Shyer were able to deftly make egoistical Alfie likable, not a mean-spirited heel.

Editor’s note: At a screening of ALFIE, Jude Law and Charles Shyer were present. Law explained that he relieved Shyer of the burden of directing him by making all the acting choices himself, and assuming that when Shyer was dissatisfied, he would navigate the actor into another take with different shading. This makes Law’s success with the role even more impressive. As much as with the line readings, I was bowled over by his body language, which is endlessly resourceful. Perhaps the best performance of the year, though you wouldn’t know it from the box office.


Credits:
Director: Charles Shyer
Screenwriters: Elaine Pope, Charles Shyer
Based on the original screenplay by: Bill Naughton
Producers: Charles Shyer, Elaine Pope
Executive producers: Diane Phillips, Sean Daniel
Director of photography: Ashley Rowe
Production designer: Sophie Becher
Music: Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, John Powell
Costumes: Beatrix Aruna Pasztor
Editor: Padraic McKinley

Cast:
Alfie: Jude Law
Julie: Marisa Tomei
Marlon: Omar Epps
Lonette: Nia Long
Dorie: Jane Krakowski
Nikki: Sienna Miller
Liz: Susan Sarandon

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