September 21, 2005
Alfie (2004) is a contemporary remake of the classic Michael Caine movie and the ultimate metrosexual movie. Its protagonist is a good looking straight man obsessed with fashion and how he looks as a way to bed as many beautiful women as possible. His lifestyle is epitomized in that age-old chestnut, “Live life to the fullest.”
Alfie (Law) is a British limo driver living in New York City. All he wants out of life is brief, one-night stands with no attachments. And yet he has a “semi-regular, quasi-sorta girlfriend,” Julie (Tomei) whom he mooches food, a hot bath and a place to crash. She has a little boy which goes against his fiercely, self-reliant belief of getting involved with a single mom. The film starts off as a breezy comedy about sex and relationships that could easily exist in the same universe as Sex and the City. The tone takes a turn for the serious when Alfie’s easy-going life is disrupted. Julie finds out he slept with another woman and he ends up sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend. Alfie tries to carry on his usual ways but something is off, or, rather, he can’t perform in bed as well as he had before.
Jude Law is well cast as the good-looking rogue. With his impossibly good looks he is instantly believable as the consummate ladies man. He has that devilish smile down cold. Law lays on the charm and makes you kind of like this cad but he really isn’t all that likable of a character. He often addresses the audience by talking directly to the camera, a common practice that is hard to pull off successfully without being too cute and self-conscious. It can fail miserably as in Kuffs (1992) or succeed brilliantly as in Annie Hall (1977). The technique works well in Alfie as it gives us insight into the character’s worldview.
The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Ashley Rowe who saturates scenes with bright, primary colours and presents a glamourous view of New York City. In one scene, Alfie and his best friend’s (Epps) girlfriend (Long) play pool in a bar bathed in blue and red light. In another scene, Alfie is on the street surrounded in a bluish hue while looking in on a child’s party bathed in a warm yellow. This gives Alfie a striking look which, unfortunately, does not make up for the screenplay’s shortcomings.
Alfie trots out a predictable message: find and appreciate true love and live each day like it is your last. It’s a lesson that Alfie must, of course, take to heart if he is to redeem himself. The film tends to drag around the one-hour mark as it tries to decide whether to reform Alfie or not. Ten minutes of the film could have easily been cut to tighten up the structure more. Law is good in the role but there’s not much under his character’s charming, glossy exterior. Perhaps that is the point but it doesn’t make for a terribly compelling character—a metaphor for the movie itself.
There is a technically oriented commentary track by co-writer/director Charles Shyer and editor Padraic McKinley. They talk about the movie’s pacing (through editing), the colour scheme and the general look—“a retro-futuristic” one as Shyer comments. The two men tend to also point out motion effects and jump cuts which gets tedious in a short matter of time.
Things don’t get much better on the second yak track which features Shyer again and co-writer/producer Elaine Pope. The focus is, not surprisingly, on character and story. Shyer concedes that the film didn’t do well in the U.S. but felt that it was due to bad timing and not because of any flaws inherent in the movie. They spend too much time fawning over Law and the odd comment about the rest of the cast in this superficial commentary.
“Round Table of Alfie” is a 16-minute discussion with Shyer, cinematographer Ashley Rowe, production designer Sophie Becher and editor McKinley. They talk about the camerawork and style of the original versus their remake with comparison footage from both movies.
“The World of Alfie” examines the genesis of the remake—a desire to update the original for contemporary times. Law admits that he was not keen on remakes of classic movies but liked Shyer’s script and what he felt was an original enough take.
“The Women of Alfie” features each of the actresses who played the women in Alfie’s life as they talk briefly about their characters and their relation to the protagonist.
“Deconstruction of a Scene” has the editor take us through a scene of Alfie riding around the streets of Soho. The crew faced many problems shooting this scene due to bad weather and tried many different solutions to ultimately achieve what they wanted.
“Gedde Watanabe Dance Footage” features the actor dancing to music that was playing on the set between takes and includes an optional commentary by Shyer and Pope. Shouldn’t this have been included in an outtake reel?
“Let the Music In” examines the soundtrack that was composed by Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart. There is plenty of studio footage as the musicians write and record the music. Jagger and Stewart briefly discuss the songs they created for the movie.
There are also eight deleted scenes with optional commentary by Shyer and McKinley totaling 11 minutes. There is more footage of Alfie with Julie and her son, illustrating his genuine affection for them. The two men put the scenes into context and explain why there were cut.
Also included are galleries that feature pages from the screenplay, location photos and storyboards from six scenes in the movie.
Finally, there is the theatrical trailer.