erasing clouds

Hereís What Alfieís All AboutÖ

review by matthew webber

Sex and clothes. Thatís it. Thatís the movie.

Jude Law plays Alfie, the title character of this remake of a 1966 Michael Caine film, as the most metro of sexuals, the best dressed and sexed of any man in the room. Heís a bachelor, a playboy, a serial dater. Thereís always another blonde or brunette; a limo or a pool table; a warm, homemade meal or a glass of absinthe. His apartment is tiny, but he tells you he seldom sleeps there. Itís one of the perils of being too sexy for New York.

Want to learn his secrets? Alfie will tell you, directly into the camera. Heíll tell you what to wear and what to say to a woman. Heís cool and conspiratorial, and he speaks with an implied wink. Heís Ferris Bueller or Zack Morris grown up. Heís the kind of guy youíd kill for even looking at your sister or daughter, although youíd secretly envy his guile, his panache. Heís the kind of guy you hate because you really want to be him. Or: Heís the guy you canít stand because you want to be with him.

Heís a cad, i.e., a British word for jerkface; but somehow heís a likable chap. He seems so cute and harmless, a puppy dog, really. Itís to Lawís credit he can make the movieís premise make sense: I understand exactly why the ladies love cool Jude. Hidden behind his cocksure smile and bedroom eyes is a boyish insecurity; smothered by his designer threads is a need to be saved. Amazingly, Alfie is a sympathetic character.

It must be his quarter-life crisis thing.

Alfie has to learn the repercussions of his philandering. As he lives his life so he doesnít get hurt, he hurts everyone else. Marisa Tomeiís single mother character wants a stable life for her son. Susan Sarandonís cosmetics mogul wants someone she herself can use. Alfieís inability to keep it in his pants wrecks his best friendís relationship with the love of his life. He lets himself get heartbroken. He lets a girl move in. Alfie starts to doubt and even hate what he has become, which leads to a bout of impotence. His dream of buying the limousine company for which he works is far from becoming reality. To signify his crisis, he forgets to shave and changes from his suits to sweaters Ė just like Mr. Rogers!

And, all the while, heís the coolest guy in the room. (Iím not talking Oceanís 11 cool, but Law and director Charles Shyer make smarmy charm look easy. Hint: Use pink sparingly in your wardrobe and your titles.)

Of course, dear reader, your enjoyment of the movie hinges on your tolerance of queer-eyed straight guys, dear-viewer-style narration, and self-conscious coolness.

Look, my life in rural Missouri is nothing like Alfieís. I donít have a closet overflowing with shoes. There arenít girls Iíve slept with whose names I canít remember. But, like Alfie, Iím twenty-something and searching: for love and for meaning, for the perfect shirt for the perfect occasion. The humbling of Alfie as a stud is something foreign; his growth as a human being is something Iím trying to live. When he looks at the camera and talks to me, Alfie isnít bragging; heís letting himself be a cautionary tale. I hope he and I will learn what lifeís all about.

Issue 28, November 2004

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