In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.
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Finding it hard to settle down and commit himself to only one woman, the unrepentant philanderer and undeniable ladies' man, Alfie, is a charming British bachelor who cruises the streets of New York as a limousine chauffeur. In his impeccable suits, the silver-tongued Casanova is simply irresistible; however, things will take a turn for the unexpected, when a night of unrestrained passion seriously tests Alfie's frivolous approach to life. In the end, is Alfie happy, and, above all, what's it all about, then?Written by
The original 'Alfie,' released in 1966, was considered a revelation for its frank and somewhat dark portrait of the life of a cockney rake, and can now be seen as somewhat prophetic, as it predated (and in some ways helped to introduce) the era of 'swinging London' and the sexual revolution. The 2004 'Alfie' seems to exist for no other purpose than to dress Jude Law up in a hip wardrobe and allow him to wink, smirk, and sigh endlessly at the camera as he sleeps his way through a series of likable women he doesn't deserve. There isn't much of a narrative structure here, and while Law is an engaging screen presence, Alfie is a totally unsympathetic lout who deserves his eventual comeuppance.
It's too bad that Bill Naughton wasn't able to update his original story more effectively, because the film is gorgeous to look at. Despite a few unnecessary bits of cleverness (billboards with odd, art-nouveau messages like 'desire' and 'wish', a lot of mod-ish split screen sequences with still photography, etc.), the cinematography is superb, Law looks dashing in his GQ hipster wardrobe, and the ladies--Susan Sarandon, Jane Krakowski, Nia Long, Marisa Tomei, and newcomer Sienna Miller (whom Law apparently dumped his wife for during filming)--are ravishing. The soundtrack is also superb, made up mostly of new tunes by Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame).
The biggest problem here is that times have changed since the original Alfie: sexual and gender politics don't allow for a protagonist who bed-hops and deceives women with impunity to be cast as heroic or even remotely sympathetic. In the end, the film seems hollow, like a nearly two-hour long visual fashion spread (interestingly, 'Vanity Fair' editor Graydon Carter has a cameo in the film). Beautiful to look at, but ultimately it's just pretty trash.
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