Why remake Alfie? It’s not as if the Michael Caine starring original was full of special effects that would look amazing with a post 2000 update. Some might argue that social politics in regards to sex haven’t even changed all that much to make those aspects of the original all that dated. If anything, with such an iconic lead performance to live up from Caine, a remake is just setting itself up to fail. So, does the 2004, seemingly pointless remake of Alfie uncover a point to its existence?
Moving the setting to America, but keeping the titular character’s nationality jauntily English, Alfie (Jude Law) is sleeping his way around New York, ditching women as soon as they show any signs of seeking commitment. There’s adorable girl next door Julie (Marisa Tomei), who should be the girl of his dreams. But it’s his best friend’s girlfriend, Nia Long as Lonette, who really floats his boat.
A health scare is the warning sign that makes Alfie decide it’s time to rethink his life, but the effect doesn’t last long. It turns out Alfie needs a few more wake up calls before he’ll actually start to grow up and realise always thinking about himself might not lead to happiness. It’s a lesson we the viewers can see from his opening, fourth wall braking monologue. But strap yourself in, because Alfie needs 100 minutes of the same scenes over and over again before he comes to the same conclusion.
Jude Law is a pretty great actor, and he delivers the cocky swagger convincingly enough here. The only problem is, he’s a little too pretty. The charm of Michael Caine as Alfie is that he’s not particularly handsome. Some might compare him to a hat full of assholes. But he’s so charismatic and charming, you totally believe his bird bedding ways. I know the whole point of these movies is that the character needs to learn that there’s more to life than being a ladies man, but looking like Jude Law just makes the new millennium Alfie’s life seem a little too charmed. I believe the setback more when they came from the bad toothed, dodgy haired Caine, that’s all.
Obviously this versions looks and feels more modern than the 60s version, but it was funny how much one specific incident stood out as super dated. Just before Alfie bones down with one of his conquests, she takes a drag on her cigarette and exhales as he is going in for the first, big kiss. She even saves a little bit to blow out the instant before they lock lips. This movie was only made a decade ago, but the general attitude towards smoking has changed so much, that what I assume was made in effort to look sexy in 2004, just looks gross and really stinky in 2015.
The modern setting also leads to this version’s greatest weakness compared to the original. 60s England was a dreary, drizzly, depressing place. It seems like everyone was unemployed, grimey and king of ugly. The movie version of 2004 Manhattan is unavoidably glamorous. Add to that Jude Law in impeccably tailored suits, and it’s hard to feel see the character as struggling against the financial odds, no matter how often he tells us he is.
Like Jude Law, everything about this version of Alfie is too pretty, too clean, to nice.