Alfie Starring: Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei Directed by: Charles Shyer Rated: R
Sometimes the main character in a film is bigger than the film itself. This kind of protagonist drives the movie and overshadows everything else.
Alfie is essentially a tribute to Jude Law. While Law does carry the movie on his shoulders, whether or not he carries you along will depend on how dreamy you fancy him prior to stepping foot inside the theater. It is almost impossible to understand Alfie, a fascinating and multi-dimensional character originated by Michael Caine in 1966, from the superficial representation of him that Jude Law gives us.
Like the original 1966 version, Shyer's Alfie is unconventional. "There's no classic three-act structure that most movies have," explains director Charles Shyer. "It's all dependent on his relationships with five women." In addition, Jude Law frequently talks directly into the camera, commenting on the action. Shyer explains, "That was from the original and it was something that we thought would really work because it gave you the duality of who he was. I think that Jude as a performer has the ability of pulling something like that off without much effort."
Unfortunately, this makes parts of the film seem more like a Jude Law documentary than an expose®of a character who is even more important today than he was in the '60s. According to Shyer, "This kind of a character has reemerged in our culture. The first movie was pre-feminism and this one is post-feminism, and it seemed like Alfie, the kind of guy who's all about face, boobs and bum, has kind of risen up again. It seemed like a relevant story to tell." But often it's too hard to tell who has really risen again, Alfie or Jude.
Nevertheless, Alfie is extremely entertaining. The opening 15 minutes are the funniest and sharpest of any modern movie in this style. The film is also visually stimulating. "I liked the idea of being able to jump-cut, freeze-frame and do new-wave editing, just to tell the story in the most graphic way possible," says Shyer. "I just went for it in this movie." Scene cuts, color schemes, montage sequences and even billboards in the background tell just as much of the story as the characters do. "You can have him walk by a wall, and no one would ever say anything, or you could put these signs [and billboards] in and you say, 'Well some people may hate it, and some people may love it, but I like it, and fuck it.' And then you just do it. You take the chance and you hope that more people like it than hate it."
As for Shyer's choice to go with Jude Law, it was a no-brainer. "I'm the president of the Jude Law fan club," he claims. "I think he's the best guy I ever worked with. He's unbelievably sweet, professional and kind. He doesn't act like a movie star. He's not about what size trailer do I have or how big is my entourage; it's about how do we make this scene better. He's also got a bit of a bad boy thing going, which women like."
"I think when you have a character who does things that are politically incorrect, it helps to have somebody who you automatically like and root for. It's an amelioration of the character a little bit; it softens the blow." Still, the success of the film shouldn't be based on how much you like Jude Law to begin with. For many males, it may be hard to identify with him, and it's hard to really care or feel bad at all when he runs into trouble. But guys, if you don't see this movie for Jude Law, see it for Susan Sarandon, who Shyer describes as "unbelievably gorgeous, unbelievably sexy, and a great actress, world class."
Don't go see Alfie expecting a deep and moving comedy. Go for fun. Though Shyer experiments creatively throughout the film and employs some innovative and almost revolutionary devices, the experiment primarily works when you distance yourself from the characters and their problems. Alfie is very funny and very clever, but the drama isn't presented seriously enough to matter. Though Shyer believes that "the dream of all filmmakers" is to "make 'em laugh and make 'em cry," he should've chosen one and stuck with it in Alfie.