Published Nov 01, 2004Make way for another modern take on a perfectly fine as is Hollywood classic. Charles Shyer's Alfie is a sanitised "re-envisioning" of the 1966 film that put Michael Caine on the map. It seems as though Hollywood cannot shake the bizarre notion that instead of seeking out classic cinema, the general public would rather spend 15 bucks on watered down, contemporary versions.
Alfie Elkins (Jude Law) is a brash playboy who has spent most of his adult life doing little more than flipping through women with as little commitment as possible. However, now that he is slowly becoming aware of his own mortality, a newfound empathy for his female conquests develops and he can no longer fight the feeling that he might eventually have to lay his pimp hand to rest. Yes, it is a tale of male arrogance and vulnerability.
The good news is that Jude Law is a fine actor and certainly does the role some justice, carrying the movie entirely on his back, but it almost smacks of Oscar baiting, especially since Caine was given the nod for his portrayal. Faithful to the original, Law directly addresses the camera (Saved By the Bell style) for much of the movie and, while it works, there is a very finite number of times one is able to watch Jude Law wink, smirk and crinkle his nose at them. Unfortunately, the director guessed that number to be somewhere around nine billion.
The film is uniquely stylised, almost to a fault, with a lot of weird subliminal messages in billboard form, as well as unnecessary freeze frame character introductions and montages. Also worth noting is the brutal Mick Jagger/Dave Stewart original soundtrack, which succeeds only in jarring the viewer from any scene it attempts to enhance.
Everything about this movie is accelerated and underdeveloped, leaving you to care little about any of the characters. Shyer's Alfie is pointless in the sense that it adds nothing to the original, instead it takes away much of the charm and relevance that made the 1966 film so great. Good source material and decent bit performances all around (Susan Sarandon, Nia Long, Marisa Tomei) but the overall dramatic effect is nil. (Paramount)