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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
Not a lot of people know this, but Terence Stamp first played the role of Alfie on stage over thirty years ago. He was then offered the film role, but turned it down. His flatmate, a struggling up and coming actor, tried to convince him to take the part, but Terence was not budging. And so his flatmate took the role. His name, was Michael Caine, and that film, Alfie, spring boarded the young actor to be the most famous cockney in the world. Of all Caine's films this ranks alongside Get Carter and The Italian Job as his best, and so why re-make it I hear you cry! Hollywood had a go at remaking The Italian Job and Get Carter but only came out with turkeys so big you couldn't fit them in your oven. But instead of remaking a Michael Caine film that wasn't good (THE SWARM, BLAME IT ON RIO!) Caine's golden classic Alfie has had the makeover, with pretty boy Jude Law bought in to ask what it's all about. Well for those who don't know what it's all about, Alfie's world is women, pulling them and dumping them. Sounds a little cold, but that is Alfie, a bird puller extraordinaire who lives for the conquests, but soon bores of them whenever commitment rears it's ugly head. Of course Alfie has to be bought down a peg or two, and this happens as a result of another conquest, which has further reaching consequences than Alfie can realize. But should Alfie have been dusted down for the 2004 audience? Well the answer is no. But why? Well, to analyse this we have to go back to the beginning and what Alfie was in Caine's day. Alfie was a man about town stuck in the poor end of London, sleeping his way through a never ending supply of 'birds' while fighting his working class shackles. Back then women were not the powerful sex they are today, at least not on the cinema screen, and were happy to get Alfie's dinner and scrub his floors. Now lets look at Jude Laws Alfie, living in present day New York, and sleeping with a seemingly never ending amount of stunners, who all seem to be getting as much out of him as he gets out of them. And so what's he got to fight against? Not his surroundings (he's in glamorous Manhattan) and his job isn't that bad (still a driver, but look at the perks), and he even likes the kid of one of his girlfriends. And so he's a nice guy, and there is problem 1, bang goes Alfie's cold side. And so what we are left with is a man who lives in New York and finds it hard to commit. Hardly a rare phenomenon. Problem number 2 is the original Alfie movie's use of the shock factor. Denholm Elliott turning up to do a back street abortion was enough to make some walk out the cinema in 1966. In this film the subject of abortion, although delicately handled, has lost it's cinematic impact, which is no doubt due to the three decades that has passed between films. And so we come to problem number 3, the films flaw being that the Alfie of today is simply not as relevant to the Alfie of yesterday. Today we have 'Sex and the City', empowered women, whom one can't help but feel would eat Alfie up alive. Indeed, the film would be more realistic if the lead was a female, although that would send traditionalists (like myself) running up the nearest tree. The makers of this re-make obviously think that illnesses has to be stepped up, and so while Caine's Alfie was given shadows on his lung to make him give pause, Law's Alfie gets a lump on his erm 'Big Ben' (I hope to God that's not the new word for it) But what about performances? Well, Law as Alfie is fine, giving emotion where its needed, although his performance does not bounce along like Caines did. When Caine spoke to the camera, immediately breaking the fourth wall and bonding with the audience, it was the height of cool, when Law does the same it feels cheesy, and like cheese, it soon starts to grate. Susan Sarandon, as the sexy older woman, certainly fulfils her characters description, while Sienna Miller gives a promising portrayal as a young women who looks like a young Marianne Faithful (circa 1965) minus her Rolling Stone. And so the blame for the films failure cannot be left at its actors doors, nor its director. The film is simply a victim of its time. Alfie belongs in the sixties, when the world (or London at least) was swinging. Right now the only thing swinging is the cinema doors, and that's because I've just left.
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