Alfie's back: Laying down with Law
It seems like everything but Cher has changed in the 38 years between Alfies, but the 2004 version proves that isn't so. Cher's not even around.
Her old title song (allegedly ditched for drawing laughter from test audiences) is sung this time by Joss Stone, although there's a jazzy version of "The Beat Goes On" on the soundtrack. It's one of several nods to the '60s in music, fashion, and graphics that help bridge the gap.
And Alfie? Alfred Elkins? Jude Law has replaced Michael Caine in the role and moved to Manhattan, but he's still English and goes through pretty much the same scenario– having his fun and getting his comeuppance.
Just as in 1966, when the sexual revolution had barely begun, Alfie finds all women ripe for the picking. We still call a man like him a "womanizer," and if his victims aren't as clueless as they once were, the term "manizer" has never caught on for his female equivalent. We would call her a "slut."
Alfie still talks directly into the camera to confide in us, even in the middle of the action, an old device that's new again this season on Life As We Know It.
"I rarely spend a night in my own bed," Alfie says. He's an unabashed lookist: "It's all about FBD: face, boobs, bum." His chosen wardrobe for the evening includes a pink shirt: "If you ooze masculinity like some of us do, you have no reason to fear pink."
Alfie and Marlon (Omar Epps), his best friend and co-worker at Mr. Wing's (Gedde Watanabe) limousine service, plan to start their own competing business when they can raise the money. At the moment, Marlon's more concerned about winning back Lonette (Nia Long). She has the face, boobs, and bum, but Alfie wouldn't do that to a friend, would he?
In the meantime, Alfie has his varied adventures. He drops the married Dorie (Jane Krakowski) when she starts to get too serious. Single mom Julie (Marisa Tomei) drops him when he doesn't ("Do we have something here, or am I just a glorified booty call?"). Nikki (Sienna Miller), Alfie's "Christmas miracle," doesn't last until Easter.
Alfie gets into a three-way with two women who have to carry on without him when he suffers from erectile dysfunction. Alfie's health crisis in the 1966 film was more life-threatening, while this is just lifestyle-threatening.
"We all have an expiration date, and women have a shorter shelf life than men," Alfie tells us. He finds an exception in Liz (Susan Sarandon), who's "50 if she's a day, (but) 50 is the new 40."
Alfie becomes aware of his own approaching expiration date when he sees one of his exes with younger, hotter Adam (Stephen Gaghan in a role that might have made him the new Brad Pitt if he'd had a little more screen time).
Law is a good actor, but I couldn't help wondering along with a catty woman in a bar scene, "what everyone sees in that Eurotrash."
As a movie, Alfie has lost none of its charm– or, unfortunately, its relevance– in this update. The battle of the sexes is still not being fought on a level playing field, and while there may be more female Alfies out there today, there are no fewer male Alfies.