In Manhattan, the British limousine driver Alfie is surrounded by beautiful women, most of them clients, and he lives as a Don Juan, having one night stands with all of them and without any sort of commitment. His girl-friend and single-mother Julie is quite upset with the situation and his best friends are his colleague Marlon and his girl-friend Lonette. Alfie has a brief affair with Lonette, and the consequences of his act forces Alfie to reflect and wonder about his life style. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If Western culture is a serpent eating its own tail, it follows that it will eventually choke on its own feces.
Put simply: the original version of Alfie was a Snake Feast. The watery, transparent 2004 Alfie, another redundant remake from the Selected Works of Sir Michael Bleedin' Caine, is Snake Sh*t.
One of the British box office hits of 1965, Alfie is a snapshot from a moment in history, a perfectly framed view of the Sexual Revolution from a working class perspective. It was both a highbrow sex farce and a populist kitchen sink drama with some wry observations about social class and convention thrown in, all held together by the magnetic presence of its star on the rise. Alfie's like a timeless character from Thackary who spends more than half his screen time justifying his appallingly rakish behavior to the audience; a vain, cocky yet insecure and neurotic Lothario attempting to escape responsibility and pain through a series of doomed sexual misadventures. He emerges at the end of the film unrepentant and only a little wiser, turning to the camera with the immortal tag-line "Wossit all abaht?" It's that timelessness the makers of Alfie '04 attempt to capitalize on in their grotesque carbon copy, updating its East End setting to lower Manhattan but with the female archetypes - or "birds" - left intact. There's the doormat girlfriend, the frustrated wife, and Susan Sarandon updates Shelly Winters' loud, vulgar 50-something man-eater as a slightly more classy 2004 model. A pointed comment on the eternal sexual condition? More like an industry that's fat, indolent, and believes the general public have a long-term memory no longer than six months. One can only imagine its audience are cocktail-guzzling Manhattan matrons with a yen for all things British, like Bridget Jones or Sarah Ferguson, and Jude Law's posterior. True, there are more shots of Law as Alfie "on the job" as it were, but those are mighty big shoes he's walking in. Jude Law comes across affable and worldly and tosses in the odd Caine-ism, but on final judgment is a pale streak of snake sh*t not worthy to fill Sir Michael's Italian loafers.
Maybe that's the problem. Caine's Alfie is cold, calculating, and at times utterly repellent. One dubious conquest he refers to as "it" is set to work as his personal slave, and then cast off for showing too much affection. Alfie '04 attempts to sanitize him, sand off some of the uncomfortable un-PC angles. Alfie 65's moment of truth arrives when the dumpy middle-aged wife of his hospital chum asks Alfie for a backyard abortion (Alfie only slept with her, mind you, to help his lunch go down). As he stares down at his miniature reflection, Caine's face is a contorted mask of pure sorrow. Law's moment of truth in Alfie '04 - no plot spoilers here - is so wide of the mark it's an insult. Strip the character of his tics and grimaces and cutesy cockney patter, and ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Invisible Man.
Even more offensive is the use of 60s pop art icons to evoke the original's aura of cool. A Chet Baker poster, Alfie's scooter - in fact the entire coke-smeared, boots and fur coated, Nico-meets-Julie Christie coquetry of the Nikki character, played by Sienna Miller. The Clash once sang "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977" and the same can be said about Alfie. That Golden Age of popular cinema in the Sixties could actually be about experimenting with style and breaking cultural taboos; not so in 2005, where surface passes for style, smarminess is a stand-in for genuine wit, where sh*t is champagne and sacred ground is something for film industry Burkes and Hares to plunder at will.
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