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2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
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"Alfie"

Directed by Charles Shyer.
Written by Elaine Pope and Charles Shyer.  Based on a play and the 1966 film written by Bill Naughton.
Starring Jude Law, Marisa Tomei, Nia Long and Susan Sarandon.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  10/22/04

Folks--

Many moons ago, well before the creation of motion pictures, someone decided that if you write a story with, let's say, a traditional three-act structure, you can't go off and have all three acts be about the same thing.  I'm not sure which person or group of persons decided that had to be the case, because literally thousands of artistic works have died because what is established in the first act is tampered with for acts two and three.

Now, I mention this because in the new remake of "Alfie" (seen thanks to freebies from my friend Tricia), I think we would have an instant classic on our hands if the film was just about Alfie being a bastard.  See, we start this film with Alfie (Jude Law) going about his social playboy ways quite merrily, a transplant from the U.K. that has come to New York to live life to its fullest...if, by "fullest", we mean to describe "hangin' out with as many hot women as possible, with the least amount of emotional attachment imaginable."  So, we watch Alfie finish up with a dissatisfied rich housewife (Jane Krakowski) before skating over to his single mom weekly booty call (Marisa Tomei) and then slapping around all manner of famously beautiful women...at least, for the first half-hour of the film.  Alfie also has a habit of speaking directly to the camera, which works early on because he is spouting off about how much he loves women, and how aware he is that he is a bastard for being the "love 'em and leave 'em" type.

Then, the film goes off and gets serious.  And we also get annoyingly 90's touches like having Alfie walk by huge billboards with one-word descriptions of mood, while pretending to not see them himself.  And, it seems to be raining a hell of a lot, matching the newfound sorrow in Alfie's life.

And, in Act III, we get what might be the longest series of almost-endings since "LOTR: Return of the King" last winter.  Seriously, I counted at least four legitimate times where "Alfie" should have been over, and then it just wasn't, and I was irate.  At least in "Return of the King", we can justify dragging out an ending for 15 minutes, since there were NINE PREVIOUS HOURS OF FILM that needed to be wrapped up.

This all makes "Alfie" quite an ordinary film, with some very funny moments and some really great scenes mixed with unwanted dramatic elements and some plain ol' uninspired direction.  The characters are excellent.  For instance, I loved Jude Law's performance of Alfie.  I loved Nia Long as Lonette, the girlfriend of Alfie's business partner that is pivotal to the drama taking place mid-film.  More and more I feel like Marisa Tomei is one film away from getting to star in some big Oscar-worthy drama, because she has been consistently strong in these thankless supporting parts ever since "What Women Want" and "In the Bedroom."  I even liked Sienna Miller as the cracked-out, one-dimensional Nikki, Alfie's girlfriend through much of the later stages of the film.  And the little quips that Alfie shoots out in the early going about the dating world and some of his advice are great.

But, as Tricia's friend Nate said after the film, the movie built up so much on the womanizer angle in the early going that you almost wish the filmmakers had just stuck with that, instead of trying to build the story around feeling sorry for Alfie's choices and watching him dig out of trouble time and time again.  It was like lost goodwill for me after a while, and I found myself just wanting "Alfie" to end after I found that he was going to try and suddenly feel sorry for himself for not committing to all of these lost relationships.  Daddy no likey.

This one was tough, but for both men and women at least "Alfie" provides great sights and some good laughs intermittently through the film.  I just wish somebody would make a movie about something and try to stick with it for 90 minutes!

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09