''What's it all about, Alfie?'' Unfortunately, in this mediocre remake of the 1966 original, not a whole lot.
''I subscribe to the European philosophy, my priorities leaning toward wine, women and--well, actually that's it, wine and women. Although women and women is always a fun option.'' These words of wisdom come from one Alfie Elkins (Jude Law)--a handsome, dashing, young Brit who has women all over Manhattan sighing his name. Some of those women include, in no particular order: a bored housewife (Jane Krakowski), a single mom (Marisa Tomei), a manic depressive (Sienna Miller), a classy older woman (Susan Sarandon) and even his best friend's girlfriend (Nia Long). As Alfie waxes philosophical into the camera about his sexual conquests, giving the audience a birds-eye view, one wonders if any of this non-committal, freewheeling lifestyle truly makes him happy. Maybe, at first. But soon the charming lothario finds he has ''small cracks in [his] faux finish'' as the consequences of his actions begin to mount, forcing him to re-evaluate his whole modus operandi. What's it all about, indeed.
Alfie's engaging cast of eye candy, lead by the beguiling Jude Law, certainly help make up for whatever is lacking in the story department. Law easily slips into the Alfie character like a well-worn glove, with the disarming smile and oozing charisma. What Law does differently than the original's Michael Caine, however, is give Alfie sensitivity--even, dare I say, a heart. The equally dashing Caine played the part fairly aloof, but Law, whose own obvious warmth can't help but shine through, is a far more multifaceted and complicated Alfie--which of course, makes him even more irresistible. Please. Even after witnessing his caddish behavior and hearing his innermost thoughts about the women he beds, I'd say more the half the female moviegoers would still fall for Law's Alfie, in a heartbeat. As far as the women in the film, they all add something different and unique--from Tomei's spunkiness to Miller's wounded soul to Sarandon's sophistication--and all seem to have great chemistry with their heartthrob leading man (especially Miller, who is Law's real-life love these days). Ah, wouldn't we all like the chance?
The 1966 original was considered risqué and controversial for its time. A man who sleeps with a bevy of women without any regards for their feelings, casting them aside when he's done, certainly wasn't what society was used to in a leading man in the '60s. Nowadays, however, it's kind of old-hat, leaving the updated Alfie antiquated in a way. Director Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride) does what he can to accessorize by beautifully framing his star cast, incorporating some fancy camerawork and infusing the proceedings with a rocking soundtrack, especially with original songs from Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart. But ultimately Alfie isn't nearly as thought provoking as it desperately wants to be. By using the original's technique of having Alfie break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience, expounding on his every move, the film tries to draw you in but ends up annoying you more than anything else. Yes, we all know womanizing can be cruel and ultimately unfulfilling, but Alfie lives in the 21st century, for god's sake; he just needs shut his trap and do something about it, already.
Despite being played by the captivating Jude Law, watching the new and supposedly improved Alfie morally wrestle with his seemingly carefree existence just doesn't hold as much resonance as it perhaps once did.