Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
United Kingdom/USA, 2004. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Elaine Pope, Charles Shyer, based on the earlier screenplay and play by Bill Naughton. Cinematography by Ashley Rowe. Produced by Elaine Pope, Charles Shyer. Music by Mick Jagger, John Powell, David A. Stewart. Production Design by Sophie Becher. Costume Design by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor. Film Editing by Padraic McKinley.
A British limousine driver (Jude Law) living in New York plays the field of romance with a series of women, avoiding commitment issues with each of them in an attempt to live the life of the perfect, untouchable bachelor. His game looks to end, however, when a bunch of life-changing events befall him: the woman he doesn’t realize he actually loves (Marisa Tomei) dumps him without a thought, his best friend’s girlfriend (Nia Long) is pregnant with what is possibly his child, and he meets his match in the form of a sexy, older woman (Susan Sarandon) who knows more tricks than he does.
This update of the sixties classic that made Michael Caine a star isn’t really terrible, but it doesn’t have the same poignancy of the original. Law couldn’t be more apt for the role, his chilly good looks and posh accent perfectly putting across the heartless cad who realizes that he actually isn’t as shallow as he wants to be. His realizations start so early in the film, and are so easy to see coming, that two thirds of the running time are spent watching him look moony and weepy over everything. Caine’s Alfie was a selfish bastard who exposed the dark side of the newly “liberated” generation, but he was also funny and constantly dared us to like him; Law’s Alfie isn’t allowed any humour, while Shyer’s constantly lingering on meltingly pretty shots of him obviously tells us that we’re supposed to approve no matter what.
The good moments are worth savouring, though: Law enjoys excellent chemistry with Sarandon (who is incredibly sexy), and Tomei is absolutely marvelous (look at the scene where he runs into her in the café; she tells about ten different stories with her facial expressions alone). In the end, though, it is rendered pointless by a lack of generational context and we’re left asking the question that the film’s beautiful theme song has been asking for almost forty years: “What’s it all about?”
Golden Globe Award: Best Original Song (“Old Habits Die Hard”)