"Alfie" is what Paramount calls a "stylish reinvention" of the 1966 original starring Michael Caine.
Jude Law in Alfie, which opens today. (Paramount).
It isn't clear that "Alfie" needed updating. Jude Law as Alfie is fine, but the story itself—womanizer can't stop womanizing—doesn't really yield anything new.
Alfie Elkins, an Englishman in New York, drives limos for a living. He doesn't make much money, but he doesn't need much either. He invests a little in nice clothes, which helps him bag and mooch off women.
One keeps expecting Alfie to change after a couple of incidents threaten his way of life, but he never really makes the leap, which is one of the movie's disappointments.
The movie significantly allows Alfie to talk directly to the camera, thus making the audience a sort of confidant and partner in his game from the beginning. Alfie will compliment a woman to her face, then turn to the camera and say what he really thinks.
For example, after a romp in the back of his limo, Alfie embraces the woman—only to look at the camera and speak about such "obligatory cuddling" before he counts "one thousand one, one thousand two …"
Alfie's soliloquizing for the camera gives the movie some light-heartedness, but its overuse in the film's first half results in seeing very little of Alfie actually interact with other people. That's too bad because Jude Law is joined by Oscar winners Marisa Tomei and Susan Sarandon, who play two of Alfie's many lovers.
Alfie has an odd way of justifying his actions. He actually believes that sleeping with his best friend's former girlfriend will help the pair reunite. The results of their encounter are a sort of benchmark in Alfie's life, though his character arc still leaves the viewer unsatisfied.
About the best parts of "Alfie" are two conversations he has with an older man. One takes place in a bathroom, the other on a beach. The elderly gentleman, who arguably is God's stand-in, has some advice for Alfie: "Next time think before unzipping."
If only Alfie had met the man earlier and heeded his advice. The filmmakers try to tack on some Ecclesiastical meanderings near film's end, but they ring about as true as one of Alfie's promises to a lover.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, some language and drug use. Reviewer's Note: Alfie is promiscuous to the nth degree. The film includes many sexual situations as well as nudity.
Director: Charles Shyer
Writers: Elaine Pope & Charles Shyer (based on a screenplay by Bill Naughton)
Cast: Alfie: Jude Law; Julie: Marisa Tomei; Marlon: Omar Epps; Lonette: Nia Long; Dorie: Jane Krakowski; Nikki: Sienna Miller; Liz: Susan Sarandon.
The movie's official Web site is here.