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  • I will admit that I went into "Alex & Emma" with great hesitation, but came out with a renewed feeling of surprisement. Here's a film that got bad word of mouth from press screenings and essentially flopped -- but I enjoyed it. It's not as clever a contrast between the sexes as "When Harry Met Sally...," and it's not quite as fun as "Sleepless in Seattle." But, for all it's worth, I consider one of the better romantic comedies of 2003.

    Luke Wilson is Alex, a genius writer living in a crusty apartment in Manhattan. He has thirty days to write a full-length work of fiction and turn it into his publisher for over one hundred grand, otherwise the Cuban Mafia is going to hunt him down and kill him. Why? He owes them 100,000 dollars of his income.

    Kate Hudson is Emma, a stenographer hired by Alex to transcribe his words onto paper, since his laptop was smashed up by the Cubans. She begins the job with hesitation and offers helpful advice from a reader's perspective throughout the process.

    Meanwhile, we get a story-within-a-story when the film moves from Alex's world to Adam's, the subject of Alex's novel. Adam (Wilson) is heading to the fictional island of St. Charles, located near Maine. I missed why he was coming in the first place because I have a short attention span, but it had something to do with collecting a payment.

    When he arrives, he meets a beautiful French woman (Sophie Marceau) and the man who wants to marry her (David Paymer). The only problem is that he finds himself falling for her, too. And the woman's servant, Ylsa, or Illsa, or...I forget, they kept changing her name, from Swedish to German to Latino to American. I don't remember who she finally turned out to be. Let's just say Ylsa ("spelled the way it sounds," Alex says), also played by Kate Hudson.

    Life parallels fiction. Of course, I guessed the "surprise" twist of it all about a mile away. But that didn't matter, because this is a pretty funny movie. There are some great one-liners and little gags, especially for writers. It spoofs the process of it all. Of course, if you view the movie with a critical eye you'll find many flaws. (Roger Ebert pointed out that Alex, when dictating, never seems to pause to find words and never messes up sentences, but's a movie, how interesting would it be if he just kept starting his sentences over and over?)

    But some of the jokes are very funny. For example, during his writing process, Emma interrupts to tell Alex that the name "Ylsa" is not spelled the way it sounds. He says it is. She says it would be, "Ilsa." He disagrees. So in his book, he makes the character Adam ask how it is spelled, and he has Ylsa, respond, "Y-l-s-a, spelled just how it sounds."

    Rob Reiner takes a small role as Alex's publisher. When writing out his check to Alex he says, "Now, is it made out to Cuban Mafia or The Cuban Mafia?" I love this stuff. Reiner has directed some great films in his past ("This is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride," "When Harry Met Sally," "A Few Good Men," am I missing any?). He has directed another winner.

    I really don't understand this film's negative reviews. Okay, so it isn't the most original film to come along in years, but what film is?Compared to so many other "romantic comedies," this one made me laugh. A lot more than I thought I would. After starting to grow weary of Luke Wilson after seeing his smug role in "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde," I was surprised by his turn here. He's getting back to his roots. Kate Hudson (daughter of Goldie Hawn) has yet to really surprise me in any way, but she's not too bad.

    When I occasionally enjoy a movie that got bad reviews, I can usually see why the movie got them. Here, on the other hand, I can not really see what the problem is. It's got a simple premise, a cute story, engaging leads, and an interesting story with more than a handful of laughs. I laughed less at last year's "The Hot Chick" and that was considered a comedy. So is this a bad movie? No, I don't think so. Not at all. But, apparently, many people do. It's too bad.

    Note: There's a direct reference to "When Harry Met Sally..." in this film. Emma says she always turns to the last page of a book before she reads it. If you recall, Billy Crystal said the same thing one time back in 1989.

    3/4 stars -

    John Ulmer
  • In "Alex & Emma" Alex, a writer, Alex (Wilson), spends most of the run dictating a romance novel to his stenographer, Emma (Hudson), in his Boston apartment. As the novel develops, Emma becomes more involved in the process and, of course, in Alex. Periodically the film cuts away to vignettes in the world of the novel with Wilson and Hudson playing the lead characters. As a result we get to watch the couple slowly gravitate toward one another with predictable results. Overall the film is watchable though not memorable, eminently predictable, and relies heavily on Wilson and Hudson. Production value is par, the chemistry is just so-so, the ending is clever and twisty, and the sum of the parts is something which will be most enjoyed by sentimental romcom junkies. (C+)
  • Rob Reiner's return to the romantic comedy genre starts out pleasant but unremarkable -- that is, until the Central Casting Cuban loan sharks leave (though it's funny when they appear in the novel-within-the-movie as shady flamenco dancers) and wastrel writer Alex Sheldon (any relation to Paul Sheldon in Reiner's earlier adaptation of MISERY? Hmm... :-) starts dictating his novel to smart, opinionated stenographer Emma Dinsmore. That's when ALEX & EMMA springs to life like a goofy cross between ADAPTATION and PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES. Luke Wilson is likable enough as Alex, but I must admit I think his brother Owen Wilson would've brought more verve and magnetism to the role. (Man, Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson together on the big screen -- I'd pay full admission price for that! But I digress... :-) As Emma, our household fave Kate Hudson plays a slightly starchier brunette version of her usual endearing self. In particular, she seems to be having great fun playing not only Emma, but also several variations of the same constantly-revamped au pair/cook/all-purpose domestic in Alex's novel-in-progress as it's enacted onscreen. I liked Emma as soon as I realized she and I share a certain quirk: we both like to read the end of books before buying them (albeit for slightly different reasons: Emma feels if the ending isn't good, it's a waste of time to read the book, whereas I like to see how the rest of the book happened to lead up to that particular ending. But I'm digressing again -- this movie had that effect on me; make of that what you will! :-)! I think writers would appreciate ALEX AND EMMA more than most moviegoers, if only because it does a pretty good job of getting into a writer's head, and the gags involving the novel-within-the-film are funny and inventive. Interestingly, ALEX & EMMA is very loosely based on Dostoyevsky's relationship with his stenographer, who he wed in real life. In fact, the movie's original title, LOOSELY BASED ON A TRUE LOVE STORY, would also have fit the novel-within-the-film, which turns out to have more parallels with Alex's real-life experiences than he'd previously admitted. (THOSE SWEET WORDS would've been a good title as well, especially since that's also the name of the Norah Jones song over the end credits.) Anyway, ALEX & EMMA would be a nice "date movie" for writers and the people who love them; now that it's available on home video, why not rent it for a snuggly movie-watching evening at home? :-)
  • Alex and Emma (2003) Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson, Sophie Marceau, David Paymer, Alexander Wauthier, Leili Kramer, Rob Reiner, Rip Taylor, Cloris Leachman, D: Rob Reiner. Disappointingly lightweight WHEN HARRY MET SALLY-ish romantic comedy, especially with Reiner's stroke of novelty and use of charm, has Hudson in five roles with not all of them genuine. Deceitful hypochondriac (Wilson) who writes books for a living gets himself in a jam when he has to make a $100 grand for a pair of Cuban Mafia loan sharks in thirty days by writing another work of fiction so he doesn't wind up six feet under. So he hires an opinionated stenographer (Hudson) to help him sculpt a love triangle on paper that then percolates into a real-life romance budding between the two. Though both stories soon come together, the trouble with the film is that it flips pages back and forth from its outside story set in contemporary Boston to a New England island set in the 1920s for its story within a story, which is rich in tedium. A line spoken from Hudson about Wilson's fictional triangle is exactly like the film itself; the story shoves itself into a corner, where it has nowhere to go except a typically old-fashioned and too quickly enfolded finale. What redeems the film is its endearing leads and airy sense of romance, and occasionally a witty one-liner. Running Time: 96 minutes and rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. **
  • I thought it was sort of cute, Luke Wilson once again achieves my high respects as does Rob and Kate. I adored the movie so much I watched it three times in two days. If you aren't impatient though, I wouldn't say this is a film for you. The ending was kind of unrealistic, but I don't think it really was supposed to be realistic. The part with the Flamingo Dancers was funny, and it had a great script. It was, oh, how could I say it? Charming. Rob Reiner did a great job directing it, and it just adds on to the long list of great films he's done. I would recommend it if you are a Hudson or Wilson fan.
  • fambouma26 November 2005
    I've seen the movie yesterday, on DVD. I had read most comments after buying, but I do not regret. I found the beginning rather slow and not very much to laugh about. But when Emma is going to work for Alex, there is a plot. The way the film has been made, by showing the real story (writing a book) mixed with played scenes from the book (the characters come alive), I liked very much. Well cut, fast, telling, and never a dull moment. Not a magnificent film, but quite entertaining. I think if the parts had been played by famous actors, like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the appreciation would have been higher. But Kate and Luke have enough appeal to be attractive to look at and to be convincing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    My family and I saw this movie when it first came out and wanted more of Hudson and Wilson. The never ending interaction between these two was fun. We never knew what would happen next to his "new book". I thought it was fun to see and hear how a writer puts to words any story and Luke Wilson amazed us with his quick dictation. I thought it was funny when Emma keeps interrupting to put her two cents in, especially when she has no skill at telling a story. We were so glad to see Rob Reiner directing such a great movie again. This is definitely worth watching. We want more Mr.Reiner,please. We rank it up there with Princess Bride.
  • No, Alex and Emma is not based on a Dostoyevsky story--it's based on an event in Dostoyevsky's life (1867). When he was 46, he married his 19-year-old stenographer whom he had hired while working on "The Gambler"--hastily written to fulfill a contractual obligation in order to pay off gambling debts. The stenographer was the calming influence in his life after a wild, doomed love affair with a woman who didn't mind spending his money but who refused to marry him.

    I saw this story previously in the Russian film, "Sixty Days" (Hollywood just has to speed up the clock). This played at a film festival, is awaiting five votes on IMDb, and will probably never be available again for viewing.

    But it was the better of the two movies.
  • I'm worried about you movie fans. If you're reading this review, you might be thinking about watching 'Alex & Emma'. If you saw it already, all hope is lost. For those who haven't seen this unromantic and unfunny rom-com yet, here are a dozen helpful hints. Yes, I've just created the exclusive Alex & Emma 12 Step Program. This is critical, so take notes!

    You can...

    1. set every clock in your house to the plot developments

    2. gulp a shot of whiskey every time you laugh (WARNING: you won't even catch a buzz)

    3. wonder what the heck happened to that talented Rob Reiner fellow

    4. yell at Hudson to "just shut your annoying trap and type, dummy"

    5. imagine Luke's brother Owen playing Alex because that's what Luke did

    6. set your eyebrows on fire to keep yourself awake

    7. make your stuffed animals kiss each other (they'll probably teach you more about passion than Alex or Emma)

    8. breathe a sigh of relief because no one will actually publish the lame novel the characters co-write

    9. check Hudson's IMDb page to confirm if she has indeed played this same character 287 times already (yup)

    10. start writing a snarky review halfway through the movie

    11. return the DVD to the video store, rent something else, and never think of spending 96 minutes with 'Alex & Emma' again

    12. repeat 12 step process as necessary
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was by no means great, but it wasn't that bad. It's about a writer who must finish his novel in 30 days to pay off the Cuban mafia. So, he meets Emma who will type the novel up. Then a lot of the film has Wilson and Hudson playing the novel characters and that's where we get some laughs. What I really didn't like was of course, at the end, the 2 declare their love? What! All they did was sit around an apartment and write a book and one time it shows them going out to walk around the city, and that means they fall in love. It was a very weak attempt at romance. The problem arises when another lady from Alex's life shows up and she just happened to be the lady he was using for his novel so Emma gets mad? Alex and Emma weren't even dating. The whole romance part was just lame, but I enjoying the scenes with the characters from the novel.

    FINAL VERDICT: If you really like Wilson and Hudson, then you'd probably like it; otherwise, you'd be let down if you just want to watch a good romantic comedy.
  • Hi,

    None of the «professional» film critics, as far as I've read or known, has bothered to mention that «Alex & Emma», quite before being a kind of remake of «Paris when it sizzles» (1964) -- starring William Holden & Audrey Hepburn --, it is first of all an «adaptation» -- not to say a remake -- of a great film French movie, «La Fête à Henriette» (1952), by Julien Duvivier, starring Dany Robin & Michel Auclair (not «Eauclaire, as many mistakingly called him !).

    PS: Perhaps a trivial remark, when who has noticed how many stars' billing rank or order may change within a few years -- in the «stock-exchange» up and downs of crowds favourites of the cinema ?

    This is a sort of «extreme» example -- time-wise -- since 10 years went by between «Sabrina» (1954) -- in which Miss Hepburn was billed BEFORE Mr. Holden, and «Paris when it sizzles» when this billing order WAS REVERSED !

    What a shame that Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart didn't ever appear together in a movie ! This was due to the fact that both great stars wanted to have first billing in William Wyler's «The Desperate Hours» (1955)... and neither would give in !

    Who said that «Vanity or vanities, all's but vanity» ?
  • I loved this movie. It was so good! I loved how Kate Hudson played so many different characters. She was very good at changing from Anna to Ylva. She was very good. Luke Wilson was also wonderful. Every person in this movie was perfect for their roles. An excellent movie.
  • The critic Ebert has a complete and accurate review, for anyone who wants to know more details. I saw it on VHS from my public library, when we see that Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson are in it, we can pretty well figure out what the ultimate outcome will be. So, the story requires that we witness how. He is an apparently good author who also is a bad gambler, and needs to complete a novel quickly to get out of debt and save his skin. She becomes his stenographer, even though he can't pay her yet, because she has a kind heart. The novelty of this movie is that we see the novel as it is being written, brought to life with Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson, plus a few others, as a movie within this movie. For me that kept my interest moderately high. How good may be the book, or its movie we see, is not the point. The point is the relationship that develops between Wilson and Hudson. Unfortunately for us, there is absolutely nothing particularly new or interesting about their relationship. Not a BAD romantic comedy, just not a particularly good one either.

    August 2006 edit - I saw it again, I enjoyed it a bit better, knowing ahead of time how it was constructed.
  • The sweetest couple I've ever seen on screen!! By quite a bit! They're perfect for each other. Alex has this magnetic personality with tons of charm and Emma is this very practical, forthright, honest, lovable, sweet woman seemingly capable of holding worlds together. She's constantly trying to steer Alex down the right path. I could watch her smile 24/7! The best is when she says a silent "bye" when standing outside his door as she is heading home one day, toward the end of the movie. I would pay good money to see Kate Hudson play a role similar to this one more time! Great movie! You've got to be sentimental to really enjoy it.
  • I was actually looking forward to going to see Alex and Emma. I think Kate Hudson is a terrific actress and Luke Wilson is a good actor as long as he plays the right role. Sadly these two could not hold this movie together.

    The movie's whole plot is really ridiculous. Luke Wilson's character Alex is supposed to finish writing his second novel in a month in order to pay off the mob. So Kate Hudson's character (Emma) works with Alex to help him write the book as he recites it. Well after that the movie starts getting rather slow and drags on. The only thing that makes this movie any fun is the arguments between Alex and Emma about how the scene in the book should be written. This makes most of the movie enjoyable. Another thing I enjoyed was Kate Hudson playing many different roles. They were amusing. Other than that, this film was very dull and forgettable. It's a shame because this movie, I think, had a lot of potential but the writing on this baby was pretty bad. The movie also has a very unoriginal ending which I am sure anyone without seeing the movie can guess. I really wonder why writers cannot create a different and unique ending for romantic movies.

    Alex and Emma is not worth the night showing at the theater but it is worth a matinee or Video rental. I would have to give Alex and Emma a 6/10.
  • While it is not mentioned much, this film is an obvious remake/rethink of the Holden/Hepburn comedy "Paris When It Sizzles." This is a case of the remake being better than the original. Audrey Hepburn was always charming, but "Paris" is some of her worst, most posy, artificial acting work.

    The strength of the re-write is the re-writes of "the book" (film within the film) that give Hudson the chance to to big slapstick characters. Far from deserving praise as a great actress that she got for this role, these characters were as deep as the wigs, costumes, and huge caricatures, but she was FUN. It was like going to see your friend's daughter in her highschool play. 100 actresses could have done it just as well, but she got the part, and at least she is game to take some chances.

    Wilson is her straight man, and is always convincing in being the messy guy who falls for the girl even though he doesn't know it. Like "Paris" this film relys mainly on the leading lady's charms. Hudson is adequate.

    It could have been funnier and more original with more inventive casting. It would have been wonderful to see someone like the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge, or the brilliant chameleon Catherine O'Hara in this role, THAT would be ten stars. This ain't.
  • Despite what I've read review wise on this site, I got this movie because I enjoy Kate and Luke and thought that together they may make a great team. An unconventional love story that makes sense, the move from reality to fiction is smooth and sweet. Luke's funny, crazy, a bit charming and sweet as Alex, a writer who has to write his next book in 30 days or be killed by Loan Sharks. He hires Emma (Kate Hudson) a sweet, opinionated and odd character, so he can narrate and she can type. Things get strange from there as Alex narrates and envisions them as the characters, but it's charming none the less. I giggled and enjoyed the scenes and I thought it was a very cute film that people have read to much into. Meant to be a sweet and enjoyable film, it's not meant to be the next Gone With the Wind. Charming and cute none the less with Rob Reiner behind the camera. Worth 7 stars for it's cute effort.
  • You shouldn't go into this movie expecting it to be the best romantic comedy ever. But for anyone who was hoping it would be more satisfying than "Paris When it Sizzles", it should be quite pleasing. Luke Wilson is incredibly cute and Kate Hudson, although she plays the same character she plays in every other film, is also delightful.

    The idea behind the story is not completely original, but still unique. They somewhat keep the "Paris" storyline in that Alex is a struggling actor like William Holden's character, Emma is his hired stenographer like Audrey Hepburn's character, and both characters dive into the story they are writing....making it up as they go along.

    And of course, all ends happily.

    Cute, light, romantic comedy with both good parts and not-so-good parts.
  • Eventually, this film was one of 2003 biggest misses, box office and general public wise. Why that is so is way beyond me. This heart warming little love story follows Adam Sheldon (Wilson), a young novelist with a very uncomfortable writer's block: he owes a large amount of money to the Cuban mafia and has less than a month to come up with the novel of his life, if he wants to receive the exact amount of cash to give the Cubans, and save his life while at it. In comes Emma (Hudson), a young typist with just the right amount of wit and attitude to confront Adam's daydreaming manners and get him started with what seems as a race against time.

    From this point on, the film starts moving in two parallel story lines - one showing Alex's real life while Emma types the story he dictates to her; the other shows the story itself, and how what happens to the characters on screen affects it's ongoing development. I won't tell you much from here on out, but the plot sure has some very unique twists and turns, and is shaped in quite an intriguing and charming manner. The obvious romance that sparks up between our lead characters adds to the mix, as imagination and reality playfully bump into each other over and over again.

    All in all, the movie has quite a bit clichés from time to time, but than again, what good love story doesn't? Even I, known to be a cynical person now and then, couldn't help but wipe a tear at the very moving finale, and really feel for those characters, both in the general story and inside the plot-within-the-plot ones.

    For anyone who ever had a real person as a muse for anything in life: you're in for a treat. Furthermore, 'Alex and Emma' includes some solid performances by both lead actors Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, as well as supporting actors Sophie Marceau, Rob Reiner and Chino XL.

    I gave it a 9 out of 10.
  • What a waste of an interesting comedy. Could've been wonderful, seriously, it could've been, but...

    Anyway, I've grown tired of this recent trend that romantic comedies can't be either romantic or a comedy. Well, I guess it's not a recent trend, but there's a huge problem with it. This movie was neither funny nor tear-jerking nor anything of importance. Which is really sad, considering its director.

    The "plot" is that a writer has a limited time to write a book and so he dictates it to a hired secretary. Two romances are going on; one in the book world and one in the real world. Neither are romantic. A waste, a crying shame, whatever you want to call it, DON'T see this movie. Go watch Love, Actually or another good rom-com. Let this burn in the depths of Hollywood Hell.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The idea for the story is a good one for a romantic comedy. So after I ready the tagline and basic summary I thought to myself 'This could be really good and cute'. Boy where I mistaken. This is the worst romantic comedy I've ever seen, it should've gotten some kind of award for being so bad. The whole movie (not kidding here) focuses on developing the fictional characters in Alex's book instead of the real ones – Ales (Luke Wilson) and Emma (Kate Hudson). For the first 5 minutes it seems like fun, but after 20 you just realize that you no longer care about the real main characters because they're so underdeveloped. Also it's ridiculous and insulting to the audience to have Alex and Emma fall in love in this mad and stormy way from just sitting in his apartment working 24/7 almost completely without actually talking to each other. When most of the movie was done, it became clear that they'd wasted a really good story setting this way. It's kind of ironic, because the book that Alex is writing in the movie obviously suck in the same way. This is by the way another mistake in the movie. The script is so bad, that everything Alex tells us (the audience) about the book he's writing throughout the movie makes it seem like a real piece of crap. The ending is really good (for a romantic film that is), and it's too bad they didn't tried harder when they made the movie.
  • tltpanic9 July 2003
    There is no chemistry between Hudson and Wilson. The story drags...and drags. The use of so many different characters does not have the desired effect (whatever that may have been), this gimmick only makes the movie more tiresome. My friend and left long before the end, and that was the only part of the experience I do not regret.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Off-beat tale fails when a writer and his stenographer live out the characters in his novel that he is desperately trying to write and complete in 30 days-so that mobsters will not kill him for owing money. He is depending on the money from the book to keep him alive.

    This premise would have made for an ideal comedy. Instead, the picture goes nowhere with the two people living out the book he is writing. Kate Hudson as the stenographer is constantly interjecting. She has the far more difficult part as he is constantly changing the women in the household where he is tutoring in the summer of 1924.

    The film becomes such a mess that even the mobsters play out in the book. A good novel should have good plot development; however, there is little plot development here as our 2 people find eventual love while literally torturing us with scenes from the book.

    Sophie Marceau plays the wealthy woman in the book who literally comes back to life as it becomes serious for our writer (Luke Wilson) and Ms. Dinsmore. (Hudson) David Paymer and Cloris Leachman briefly appear. They have very little to do and should be grateful for that.
  • At the beginning of the film it failed to capture my attention. But as the characters began to develop i was pulled into the story of poor Alex and feisty Emma. I really liked the plot outline with the narrative characters developing alongside Alex and Emma.I actually felt moved in the beginning when Emma lost the stenograph pages which surprised me.One major niggle did occur to me though about the whole '30 days' thing i would have given the film a higher rating if it had focused on wit and humour than macho men/suspense. After a while i also felt that it needed more edge something more than just a battle of the sexes. Anyway it diverted my attention plausibly and i give a rating of: 5/10
  • This film may be "loosely" based on A True Love Story. That is what other people have said about it. It is "EXACTLY" based on "Paris When It Sizzles". This was a film with William Holden and Audrey Hepburn, using exactly the same premise and conflict. It follows the premise of the story so closely it could almost be scene for scene. I'll always take the former, Holden and Hepburn as the two to watch, but, Kate and Like were certainly acceptable in their performances. They made the film entertaining. It is light hearted and appealing, just as originally intended. It follows that old Hollywood guideline, when every film had to have a happy ending. No deep message here, just fun.
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