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Alfie
2004 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: Charles Shyer
Producer: Charles Shyer, Elaine Pope
Written By: Charles Shyer, Elaine Pope
Starring: Jude Law, Omar Epps, Marisa Tomei, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Sienna Miller
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.alfiemovie.com
   
Alfie Elkins (Jude Law) is a limousine chauffeur in New York City, working alongside longtime friend Marlon (Omar Epps). Once they procure the necessary amount of capital, the two have the goal to eventually start up their own limousine company. When he is not working, Alfie is out on the town in the passionate pursuit of women he can have one-night stands with and then move on. You see, he is deathly afraid of commitment; he despises the idea of being tied to one and only one woman for the rest of his life.

He quickly becomes involved with three different women at one time, all at varying levels of intimacy: Marlon's ex-girlfriend Lonette (Nia Long), a single mother named Julie (Marisa Tomei), and Nikki (Sienna Miller), a sultry young woman who first came to his attention purely because of her superficial looks. As if things weren't already complicated, Alfie begins relations with Liz (Susan Sarandon), an older woman he desires because she has "experience." As he balances the multitude of relationships, Alfie begins to long for something more substantial, a relationship that goes beyond the quality of the sex. The only problem is that the women he is dating either realize that he isn't the type to live a long life with, or, in the case of Nikki, have severely disabling problems of their own that basically negate any such chance.

'Alfie' is as close to the equivalent of a cinematic surprise as one could define. It plays with one's expectations going in, because if one were to see the trailer, they would undoubtedly expect a cookie cutter romantic comedy, even more so for those who haven't heard of the 1966 original that starred Michael Caine. Well, the end product is thankfully much more than that. It is more of a darkly comic take on the effervescent nature of relationships seen through the eyes of a knowingly self-absorbed character. One thing this film skillfully sidesteps is the desire to fall into line with most Hollywood films these days and become a predictable romantic comedy. In this vein, it thematically resembles 2002's 'About a Boy' starring Hugh Grant, except that this film is more sexually explicit and does not establish one or two relationships that could be considered the core of the film.

Instead, director/cowriter Charles Shyer ('The Affair of the Necklace') and fellow screenwriter Elaine Pope fashion a final product that explores the evolution of a persona's mindset. In essence, 'Alfie' is a highly stylized character study and a superbly unique and oddly rewarding one at that. Speaking of the film's style, Shyer does not shy (pun intended) away from utilizing split-screens and time-lapse photography as it paints a sometimes rapid-fire picture of Alfie's world. The film also employs a monologue style in which Alfie talks to the camera, correlated no doubt to the film's origins as a stage play. While it is not possible to say that this technique didn't grow tiresome at times, it is mostly successful in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, 'Alfie' wouldn't be half the film it is without an affecting lead performance by Jude Law. He is consistently engaging and likable in spite of his numerous faults, not the least of which is an outlook on life that could charitably be called superficial. In fact, at one point early in the film he says "Why focus on personality when there are all the superficial things to worry about; the things that really matter." It is a signature of the film's darkly satiric comedy and Law's performance that a line like that is able to garner a laugh. This is without a doubt, Jude Law's best performance yet, besting even his Oscar nominated performance in 'Cold Mountain.'

Ample support is given by the likes of Epps, Long, and Sarandon, as they are talented performers each in their own right and they're successful here as well.

A film that never stops engaging, 'Alfie' is a perfect example of a post-modern character study.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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