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I will admit that I went into "Alex & Emma" with great hesitation, but came
out with a renewed feeling of surprisement. Here's a film that got bad word
of mouth from press screenings and essentially flopped -- but I enjoyed it.
It's not as clever a contrast between the sexes as "When Harry Met
Sally...," and it's not quite as fun as "Sleepless in Seattle." But, for all
it's worth, I consider one of the better romantic comedies of
Luke Wilson is Alex, a genius writer living in a crusty apartment in Manhattan. He has thirty days to write a full-length work of fiction and turn it into his publisher for over one hundred grand, otherwise the Cuban Mafia is going to hunt him down and kill him. Why? He owes them 100,000 dollars of his income.
Kate Hudson is Emma, a stenographer hired by Alex to transcribe his words onto paper, since his laptop was smashed up by the Cubans. She begins the job with hesitation and offers helpful advice from a reader's perspective throughout the process.
Meanwhile, we get a story-within-a-story when the film moves from Alex's world to Adam's, the subject of Alex's novel. Adam (Wilson) is heading to the fictional island of St. Charles, located near Maine. I missed why he was coming in the first place because I have a short attention span, but it had something to do with collecting a payment.
When he arrives, he meets a beautiful French woman (Sophie Marceau) and the man who wants to marry her (David Paymer). The only problem is that he finds himself falling for her, too. And the woman's servant, Ylsa, or Illsa, or...I forget, they kept changing her name, from Swedish to German to Latino to American. I don't remember who she finally turned out to be. Let's just say Ylsa ("spelled the way it sounds," Alex says), also played by Kate Hudson.
Life parallels fiction. Of course, I guessed the "surprise" twist of it all about a mile away. But that didn't matter, because this is a pretty funny movie. There are some great one-liners and little gags, especially for writers. It spoofs the process of it all. Of course, if you view the movie with a critical eye you'll find many flaws. (Roger Ebert pointed out that Alex, when dictating, never seems to pause to find words and never messes up sentences, but hey...it's a movie, how interesting would it be if he just kept starting his sentences over and over?)
But some of the jokes are very funny. For example, during his writing process, Emma interrupts to tell Alex that the name "Ylsa" is not spelled the way it sounds. He says it is. She says it would be, "Ilsa." He disagrees. So in his book, he makes the character Adam ask how it is spelled, and he has Ylsa, respond, "Y-l-s-a, spelled just how it sounds."
Rob Reiner takes a small role as Alex's publisher. When writing out his check to Alex he says, "Now, is it made out to Cuban Mafia or The Cuban Mafia?" I love this stuff. Reiner has directed some great films in his past ("This is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride," "When Harry Met Sally," "A Few Good Men," am I missing any?). He has directed another winner.
I really don't understand this film's negative reviews. Okay, so it isn't the most original film to come along in years, but what film is?Compared to so many other "romantic comedies," this one made me laugh. A lot more than I thought I would. After starting to grow weary of Luke Wilson after seeing his smug role in "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde," I was surprised by his turn here. He's getting back to his roots. Kate Hudson (daughter of Goldie Hawn) has yet to really surprise me in any way, but she's not too bad.
When I occasionally enjoy a movie that got bad reviews, I can usually see why the movie got them. Here, on the other hand, I can not really see what the problem is. It's got a simple premise, a cute story, engaging leads, and an interesting story with more than a handful of laughs. I laughed less at last year's "The Hot Chick" and that was considered a comedy. So is this a bad movie? No, I don't think so. Not at all. But, apparently, many people do. It's too bad.
Note: There's a direct reference to "When Harry Met Sally..." in this film. Emma says she always turns to the last page of a book before she reads it. If you recall, Billy Crystal said the same thing one time back in 1989.
3/4 stars -
In "Alex & Emma" Alex, a writer, Alex (Wilson), spends most of the run dictating a romance novel to his stenographer, Emma (Hudson), in his Boston apartment. As the novel develops, Emma becomes more involved in the process and, of course, in Alex. Periodically the film cuts away to vignettes in the world of the novel with Wilson and Hudson playing the lead characters. As a result we get to watch the couple slowly gravitate toward one another with predictable results. Overall the film is watchable though not memorable, eminently predictable, and relies heavily on Wilson and Hudson. Production value is par, the chemistry is just so-so, the ending is clever and twisty, and the sum of the parts is something which will be most enjoyed by sentimental romcom junkies. (C+)
Rob Reiner's return to the romantic comedy genre starts out pleasant but
unremarkable -- that is, until the Central Casting Cuban loan sharks leave
(though it's funny when they appear in the novel-within-the-movie as shady
flamenco dancers) and wastrel writer Alex Sheldon (any relation to Paul
Sheldon in Reiner's earlier adaptation of MISERY? Hmm... :-) starts
dictating his novel to smart, opinionated stenographer Emma Dinsmore. That's
when ALEX & EMMA springs to life like a goofy cross between ADAPTATION and
PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES. Luke Wilson is likable enough as Alex, but I must
admit I think his brother Owen Wilson would've brought more verve and
magnetism to the role. (Man, Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson together on the big
screen -- I'd pay full admission price for that! But I digress... :-) As
Emma, our household fave Kate Hudson plays a slightly starchier brunette
version of her usual endearing self. In particular, she seems to be having
great fun playing not only Emma, but also several variations of the same
constantly-revamped au pair/cook/all-purpose domestic in Alex's
novel-in-progress as it's enacted onscreen. I liked Emma as soon as I
realized she and I share a certain quirk: we both like to read the end of
books before buying them (albeit for slightly different reasons: Emma feels
if the ending isn't good, it's a waste of time to read the book, whereas I
like to see how the rest of the book happened to lead up to that particular
ending. But I'm digressing again -- this movie had that effect on me; make
of that what you will! :-)! I think writers would appreciate ALEX AND EMMA
more than most moviegoers, if only because it does a pretty good job of
getting into a writer's head, and the gags involving the
novel-within-the-film are funny and inventive. Interestingly, ALEX & EMMA
is very loosely based on Dostoyevsky's relationship with his stenographer,
who he wed in real life. In fact, the movie's original title, LOOSELY BASED
ON A TRUE LOVE STORY, would also have fit the novel-within-the-film, which
turns out to have more parallels with Alex's real-life experiences than he'd
previously admitted. (THOSE SWEET WORDS would've been a good title as well,
especially since that's also the name of the Norah Jones song over the end
credits.) Anyway, ALEX & EMMA would be a nice "date movie" for writers and
the people who love them; now that it's available on home video, why not
rent it for a snuggly movie-watching evening at home? :-)
Alex and Emma (2003) Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson, Sophie Marceau, David Paymer, Alexander Wauthier, Leili Kramer, Rob Reiner, Rip Taylor, Cloris Leachman, D: Rob Reiner. Disappointingly lightweight WHEN HARRY MET SALLY-ish romantic comedy, especially with Reiner's stroke of novelty and use of charm, has Hudson in five roles with not all of them genuine. Deceitful hypochondriac (Wilson) who writes books for a living gets himself in a jam when he has to make a $100 grand for a pair of Cuban Mafia loan sharks in thirty days by writing another work of fiction so he doesn't wind up six feet under. So he hires an opinionated stenographer (Hudson) to help him sculpt a love triangle on paper that then percolates into a real-life romance budding between the two. Though both stories soon come together, the trouble with the film is that it flips pages back and forth from its outside story set in contemporary Boston to a New England island set in the 1920s for its story within a story, which is rich in tedium. A line spoken from Hudson about Wilson's fictional triangle is exactly like the film itself; the story shoves itself into a corner, where it has nowhere to go except a typically old-fashioned and too quickly enfolded finale. What redeems the film is its endearing leads and airy sense of romance, and occasionally a witty one-liner. Running Time: 96 minutes and rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. **
This fun, entertaining romance comedy adds special fantasy scenarios and uses cute past historical romance with current day playwriting uses characters past and present. The twist towards the ending makes for a memorable dilemma. The premise and the script unfortunately were underplayed and the climax tame compared to its potential, but Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson make for a fun relationship with some great humor and entertaining date romp at the theaters. This is a decent, worthwhile movie, even though it could have played it for even greater drama and laughs. Seven out of ten stars.
I'm worried about you movie fans. If you're reading this review, you might
be thinking about watching 'Alex & Emma'. If you saw it already, all hope is
lost. For those who haven't seen this unromantic and unfunny rom-com yet,
here are a dozen helpful hints. Yes, I've just created the exclusive Alex &
Emma 12 Step Program. This is critical, so take notes!
1. set every clock in your house to the plot developments
2. gulp a shot of whiskey every time you laugh (WARNING: you won't even catch a buzz)
3. wonder what the heck happened to that talented Rob Reiner fellow
4. yell at Hudson to "just shut your annoying trap and type, dummy"
5. imagine Luke's brother Owen playing Alex because that's what Luke did
6. set your eyebrows on fire to keep yourself awake
7. make your stuffed animals kiss each other (they'll probably teach you more about passion than Alex or Emma)
8. breathe a sigh of relief because no one will actually publish the lame novel the characters co-write
9. check Hudson's IMDb page to confirm if she has indeed played this same character 287 times already (yup)
10. start writing a snarky review halfway through the movie
11. return the DVD to the video store, rent something else, and never think of spending 96 minutes with 'Alex & Emma' again
12. repeat 12 step process as necessary
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was by no means great, but it wasn't that bad. It's about a
writer who must finish his novel in 30 days to pay off the Cuban mafia. So,
he meets Emma who will type the novel up. Then a lot of the film has Wilson
and Hudson playing the novel characters and that's where we get some laughs.
What I really didn't like was of course, at the end, the 2 declare their
love? What! All they did was sit around an apartment and write a book and
one time it shows them going out to walk around the city, and that means
they fall in love. It was a very weak attempt at romance. The problem
arises when another lady from Alex's life shows up and she just happened to
be the lady he was using for his novel so Emma gets mad? Alex and Emma
weren't even dating. The whole romance part was just lame, but I enjoying
the scenes with the characters from the novel.
FINAL VERDICT: If you really like Wilson and Hudson, then you'd probably like it; otherwise, you'd be let down if you just want to watch a good romantic comedy.
I thought it was sort of cute, Luke Wilson once again achieves my high respects as does Rob and Kate. I adored the movie so much I watched it three times in two days. If you aren't impatient though, I wouldn't say this is a film for you. The ending was kind of unrealistic, but I don't think it really was supposed to be realistic. The part with the Flamingo Dancers was funny, and it had a great script. It was, oh, how could I say it? Charming. Rob Reiner did a great job directing it, and it just adds on to the long list of great films he's done. I would recommend it if you are a Hudson or Wilson fan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My family and I saw this movie when it first came out and wanted more of Hudson and Wilson. The never ending interaction between these two was fun. We never knew what would happen next to his "new book". I thought it was fun to see and hear how a writer puts to words any story and Luke Wilson amazed us with his quick dictation. I thought it was funny when Emma keeps interrupting to put her two cents in, especially when she has no skill at telling a story. We were so glad to see Rob Reiner directing such a great movie again. This is definitely worth watching. We want more Mr.Reiner,please. We rank it up there with Princess Bride.
I've seen the movie yesterday, on DVD. I had read most comments after buying, but I do not regret. I found the beginning rather slow and not very much to laugh about. But when Emma is going to work for Alex, there is a plot. The way the film has been made, by showing the real story (writing a book) mixed with played scenes from the book (the characters come alive), I liked very much. Well cut, fast, telling, and never a dull moment. Not a magnificent film, but quite entertaining. I think if the parts had been played by famous actors, like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the appreciation would have been higher. But Kate and Luke have enough appeal to be attractive to look at and to be convincing.
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