A cockney womanizer learns the hard way about the dangers of his actions.A cockney womanizer learns the hard way about the dangers of his actions.A cockney womanizer learns the hard way about the dangers of his actions.A cockney womanizer learns the hard way about the dangers of his actions.A cockney womanizer learns the hard way about the dangers of his actions.
Maybe for those who mis-remembered the bright, scabrous, creative original. I'm finding that most reviewers are remembering it incorrectly, whereas I saw it for the first time the weekend before I saw this too-pretty make-over.
Most reviewers remember it as black-and-white, which it wasn't.
Most remember it as reflective of the Swinging '60's of London, but the mise en scene was London at the cusp, as attitudes were just starting to change, so characters were flopping in moral confusion.
Most remember the women as pre-liberation, but their passivity was more complicated; Alfie had an unerring ability to hone in on women with horrificallly low self-esteem, regardless of their marital or economic status.
Michael Caine is such an established actor now, none remember that he was not a conventionally handsome lead to be conquering all these women, let alone that he was a cocky Cockney like the Angry Young Man of the period kitchen sink British dramas.
Few remember just how heartless he was - calling all his conquests "it".
None seem to remember how vividly babies and abortion figure into the plot, a la "Vera Drake."
The new version is confused about all these elements.
The cinematography is beautiful, but has to cover up for the fact that while it supposedly takes place in New York City, it was actually filmed in Manchester, England so is missing atmosphere that's so critical to the same ground that's trod in "Sex and the City;" frequent background mattes of the Brooklyn Bridge are weak atmosphere-builders . And this is also some sort of retro NYC that allows smoking in bars and doesn't require helmets on mopeds, which is also a retro means of individual transport.
The film probably takes place in the '00's - but the flashy split screens and the women's make-up and styles are retro-'60's. "Keen Eddie"'s Sienna Miller is made up as a duplicate of the original's Jane Asher. Marisa Tomei even has her hair in a flip with a wide head band and Nia Long is made up like "Cleopatra Jones" from the early '70's.
At least one time we do get a glimpse of a condom package, but that's only obvious now because films today show them, not that they weren't used in the '60's; it does take place in post Roe v. Wade NYC.
The women's personality upgrades are inconsistently effective and there's no drama to how the incredibly beautiful, posh-sounding Jude Law captures them.
Susan Sarandon's self-assured, independent entrepreneur is a sexy, believable update of Shelley Winters' rich widow, making her closing dig at Alfie as a gigolo even more devastating.
Miller's character is now trendily manic depressive, or some such chemically-dependent disorder, rather than just an insecure runaway, which weakens Alfie's hold on her; that character's passive aggressive manipulation of him and how she bypasses him to straighten out her life are missing completely, so we lose some insight into both his cruelty and comeuppance.
Long's character's crisis is weakened from the original's, as her pregnancy conflates two different affairs, with the emphasis instead put on male friendship betrayal, the friend that this "Alfie" claims in passing calls his women "it".
"Alfie"'s health scare had to be updated from TB, and the cancer testing is done for laughs; the lack of mention of Viagra is odd if it is in fact taking place now. Here the older male confidante is stuck in deus ex machina, rather than in plot context.
While the original stands up 35 years later as a mordant and brilliant, matter of fact presentation of "moral lapses," the mild update is considerably weakened and Hollywoodized as respectable company, such that the finale doesn't even segue smoothly into the first musical line of "What's it all about?"
The soundtrack selections are otherwise excellent, but as confusingly retro as the rest of the atmosphere, with neo-soul teen Joss Stone singing and Mick Jagger collaborating with Dave Stewart on originals that sound old.
- Nov 17, 2004