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ALFIE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jude Law, Marisa Tomei, Omar Epps, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Sienna Miller, Susan Sarandon
Director: Charles Shyer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 15, 2005

"I never meant..."

"You never mean to hurt anyone...but you do, Alfie."

Film ***

The year was 1966, and a quite young Michael Caine was turned into a star overnight with his lead role in a little movie called Alfie. The story involved a young cocky womanizer whose careless actions of wooing endless parades of women get the better of him. It's a comedy, and a very human one, but it's one where real drama manages to take a crucial grasp in the second half.

Nearly forty years down the road, Alfie has been remade with glitzy style by way of director Charles Shyer. The setting has been thoughtfully transported from swinging London to modern day New York. What's more, the lead role couldn't have been cast better, with charismatic Jude Law providing a pitch perfect performance as the smooth talking womanizer.

Law is indeed the best actor for the role, and he is the definitive match to what Michael Caine was back when the original was made. He has both the charm and ridiculous good looks that make you believe that he could woo as many women as he so desires. We can also buy into the notion that a guy like this would be in love with his ego regarding being a true ladies man.

Alfie (Law) is a British-born playboy residing in Manhattan, where he believes that beautiful women from all over the world can be found without looking very hard. Working as a limo driver, Alfie indulges in frequent escapades with the many attractive women he drives around town. What Alfie fails to realize is the very thing that will be the end of him in terms of being happy.

He's currently in a steamy fling with Dorie (Jane Krakowski), a married woman who doesn't get the physical love from her husband, which Alfie provides. It seems that after every fling, Alfie finds himself making spontaneous stops by the home of Julie (Marisa Tomei), who's the one woman that he happens to really care for, but gives into the life rule of never committing, especially with a single mom.

Alfie's conniving ways soon start to catch up with him in the midst of two unexpected events. The first is a visit to the doctor where he is informed of a possible disease contraction. The second is to find himself in a fling with Lonette (Nia Long), the girlfriend of his best friend, Marlon (Omar Epps).

Their relationship is on the rocks, and following the night of his secret fling with her, Alfie is stunned when Marlon says their getting back together. As a result of this, Alfie feels as if he can do no wrong. He sees the hook up with Lonette as the gateway to her and Marlon continuing onward.

On a downside note, Julie has possibly given up on Alfie waiting forever to commit. Not realizing that his true key to happiness has just been thrown away, two more women enter Alfie's life, and two very different women at that. There's ultra sexy model Nikki (Sienna Miller), and strong willed businesswoman Liz (Susan Sarandon), who owns her own empire and happens to enjoy much younger men.

Alfie engages in a strong affair with Nikki, which suits him fine at first. However, once Nikki reveals intense mood swings, it challenges his thoughts of staying with her. Liz, on the other hand, proves to be much enjoyable to what Alfie likes in a good physical relationship, but a secret about her manages to slap him in the face.

This is another remake where I have not seen the original source material. My only regret in these matters is that I wonder if my opinion of the film at hand would be different. What I can say is that this Alfie is a most engaging character study focusing on a man who believed his gift for wooing countless women accounted for pure happiness in life, only to discover that his actions have robbed him of any possible happiness with women.

What a year 2004 was for Jude Law. With countless films, including Sky Captain, I Heart Huckabees, Closer, and The Aviator, just to name a few, in addition to this, Law has had one of the busiest years of any actor, in addition to maybe Ben Stiller. What's even more astonishing is that each of those films were superb pieces of work, and Alfie can be added to that list, because it's the one film out of the list where Law's charisma takes center stage.

At the time of the original movie's release, the term "male chauvinist pig" wasn't in existence. Nowadays, MCP is in high existence (trust me, I happen to have known a few myself), and Alfie qualifies as an ideal remake and character study to fit the times grandly.

Video ****

Splendid, absolutely splendid! Paramount's anamorphic offering is as rich and stunning as the women in Alfie's life. Director Charles Shyer eludes an ultra-stylistic atmosphere for the film, which is superbly reflected in the outstanding video presentation. Image quality is as clear as a bell, with tones for both night and day shots appearing terrifically. Colors are most vibrant, as well. Most outstanding!

Audio ***1/2

I really wasn't expecting the level of sound that I got with this 5.1 mix. I expected nothing more than spoken words, delivered in terrific tone, of course. The NYC setting allows for some nice leveled surround sound with various set pieces making good use of the channels. The dialogue is delivered most wonderfully, and the winning soundtrack, complements of none other than Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart, provides the striking bonus of the overall presentation.

Features ****

Paramount delivers the goods with a marvelous Special Collector's Edition release. To start with, there are two commentary tracks; one with Writer/Director Charles Shyer and Film Editor Padraic McKinley, the second with Shyer and Writer/Producer Elaine Pope. Also included is a "Round Table": a discussion of the film's production, hosted by Writer/Director Charles Shyer. Three featurettes; "The World Of Alfie", "The Women Of Alfie" and "Alfie: Deconstruction Of A Scene". Dance footage with costar Gedde Watanabe with optional commentary by Charles Shyer and Elaine Pope, a soundtrack featurette titled "Let The Music In", which looks at the recording sessions with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart. Lastly, there are Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Charles Shyer and Padraic McKinley, a Theatrical Trailer/bonus previews, a script gallery, production gallery and storyboard gallery.

Summary:

Alfie is quite a gem. An intriguing character analysis highlighted by a strong supporting cast and a terrific lead performance from Jude Law. As Alfie himself asks, "What's it all about?" You should check this superb disc from Paramount to find the answer!

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