Beliefnet
Movie Mom

What’s it all about, Charlie?

Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers used to be married and they used to make movies together (Baby Boom, the remakes of Father of the Bride and The Parent Trap). Now they are divorced, and they make movies separately. Hers: the very successful What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give; his: the less successful The Affair of the Necklace and now this remake of the 1966 Michael Caine film. The two of them seem to be working through something as both of their recent films were about the exact same thing — the comeuppance of what we used to call a cad.

This film may have had some theraputic value for its director. Its value as entertainment and illumination is uneven at best.

The performances are all top-notch. Each of the women creates a full and complex character, especially Nia Long as the woman Alfie’s best friend loves, Susan Sarandon as an older woman as predatory as he is, Marisa Tomei as a single mom, and Sienna Miller as a beauty whose instability is at first a turn-on and then a turn-off.

The film’s primary and very significant asset is Jude Law, who is brilliant in the title role. He has to make us almost as charmed by Alfie as the women he goes after, even while he is confiding in us what he is really thinking. Very few actors can make an unsympathetic character so appealing or pull off a role that involves speaking directly to the audience, and Law is constantly ingratiating, fascinating, and even touching.

That is less true, however, of the rest of the film. The movie feels as empty as Alfie’s heart.

Parents should know that the movie has very explicit sexual references and situations. Characters use very strong language, drink, smoke, take drugs, and have unprotected sex. There are tense situations and references to abortion. A strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of inter-racial relationships, though a theme of the movie is the way Alfie betrays just about everyone with whom he comes in contact.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Alfie (and the audience) learns from each of his encounters, including the old man in the bolo tie. Which one is the most meaningful to him? Why? What is Alfie looking for? How will that change?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Alfie with a star-making performance by Michael Caine. They will also enjoy About a Boy and The Tao of Steve.

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