What's it all about ... "Alfie"? No, Jude!
Seattle Times movie critic
Two movie critics, each bearing my name, wearing my shoes and drinking my Diet Coke, attended the "Alfie" screening. One — let us call her M1 — wondered how this remake of the rather dark 1966 Michael Caine film would work in a contemporary setting, and how its sexual politics would translate into another era. The other — who shall be known as M2 — just wanted to see Jude Law's naughty grin and sea-blue eyes, and to appreciate how dazzling he would look in his slim-cut retro suits, and ...
Ahem. Sorry. M2 took over the review for a moment. M1, now firmly back at the keyboard, would like to report that "Alfie" the remake, despite fine work by the cast (yes, there are people in the movie other than Law, but not so's you'd notice), doesn't really work — it ultimately has nothing to say, and no reason to exist. (Some among us — including M2 — would say that Law, gazing sideways into the camera and smiling the kind of smile that could light up a November night all by itself, is reason enough. Those inclined this way should buy a ticket immediately, and never mind the rest of this review. Off you go.)
The 1966 original was a morality tale set in London, in which chauffeur Alfie Elkins (Caine, who in his golden-haired days looked just a tad like Law, if you squint) bopped from bird to bird, rarely occupying the same bed twice. Alfie, who occasionally refers to his woman-of-the-moment as "it," is a heartless cad who gets his comeuppance when he has to arrange a harrowing illegal abortion. Caine's bristly charm as he addressed the camera directly (a convention carried over into the remake) and the elegance of the filmmaking make the original "Alfie" well worth seeing, even as its darkness overwhelms Caine's sun.
For the remake, director Charles Shyer and co-writer Elaine Pope tossed out most of the controversial content, softening Alfie into a lovable rogue and lighting Law like he's a work of art. (Which he is, says M2, for the record.) The resulting movie is airy entertainment; showing off its leading man and its snazzy production design, ultimately going nowhere. Law, his hair standing up like a rooster's comb, is marvelously relaxed, cruising around Manhattan in his turquoise scooter like it's a magic carpet.
But his considerable acting chops never come into play; this is all hair, costumes and teeth, dazzlingly employed. And ... well, let's just say that M1 left the theater dissatisfied, while M2, mentally speeding off into the sunset on the back of that scooter, was smiling. M1 gives "Alfie" 2-1/2 stars. M2's rating? Oh, 5 or 6 at least. Sigh. Back to work now.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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