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Alfie (2004): Searching For Peace of Mind

Alfie is a 2004 romantic comedy about a handsome, reckless hedonists in Manhattan who must face the consequences of his obsessive womanizing. A box office flop, it earned mixed reviews from critics and quickly faded but deserves a second look.

mv5bnzu0njgynjm0n15bml5banbnxkftztcwmtewmdgymq-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Alfie (Jude Law) is a dashing, British limousine driver in New York City who seems to have everything in life he wants, with a “semi-regular-quasi-sort-of-girlfriend thing” and a bevy of other beautiful women he regularly sleeps with and then disposes. Eventually, losing sight of priorities and good sense, he has a one-night stand with the girlfriend of his best friend and the consequences are naturally surprising. For all parties, each in a different ways, it is life-changing.

Directed by Charles Shyer, and a remake of the 1966 Michael Caine film of the same name, Alfie is a competent reboot with some great performances, especially by the many talented women, but is a little too familiar and predictable, never really reaching the heights it should. Law is appropriately charming and very likable, running the gambit from self-centered and selfish to sad and then finally sweet, all with the right flair. He talks directly to us, breaking the fourth wall, a gimmick that feels forced at first but by the end, works well, making us feel a bit like we ourselves have journeyed with the troubled young man. While the film lacks the sharp social critiques of the first film, and Law’s Alfie is far less cynical, there are some shining moments and despite some tonal issues, is a compelling watch that gets better as time passes. And like every movie, it has one great moment. (Spoilers Ahead)

Alfie, 2004 ©Paramount Pictures

Facing Consequences

There’s no real surprise in where the movie is taking us, and of course the journey getting there is what matters, but when we do come to the end, it’s good to see Alfie recognizing his need for change when so much has left him with more questions than answers about the relationships in his life. Or at least reflecting on what he is. From a scare with testicular cancer that momentarily renews his lust for women and creating a lasting partnership, to an affair with an older woman, to learning he has a child who is being raised without him, these all lead Alfie to feel regret for his actions and short-sighted choices. He worries that, like the advice given to him by an older man who lost his wife, he should find someone to love and live every day like it’s his last. Is that something he will ever experience? It’s a questions perhaps many of us have asked ourselves.

Alfie, 2004 ©Paramount Pictures

His former, and perhaps most serious girlfriend (Sienna Miller) has found someone new, and beaten down by one loss after another, he runs into Dorie (Jane Krakowski), a regular sure thing for sex who says she’s also moved on and so for the first time in a long time, Alfie is without anyone. The weight of it all bends his shoulders and weakens his resolve to the point where he reflects more deeply about the moments that made a difference for the women and should have for him as well. Talking to directly to the camera, as he has throughout the film, Alfie confesses his indulgent, selfish lifestyle may have been a mistake, and though he justifies his loneliness by claiming he’s happy to be free of commitments, he admits he lacks piece of mind. And that means, he has nothing.

There is a rawness to this moment that separates it from the film entire, a savage, personal assessment that truly shifts our grounded perception of the man, and it is his own critical observation of his actions that finally endear him to us. Watch how well Law carries this character throughout the film, giving the roguish, freelancing lover a well-defined arc by the time we reach this point. In many ways, it harkens back to Richard Gere‘s own star-making role in American Giglio, a performance that is equally stirring, though in a superior film. Either way, notice the glances away from the camera, bits of regret and disappointment that sour his words. “Despite my best efforts, I’m starting to feel some small cracks,” he laments, “in my faux finish.” That he tries to bring it back around, as if his lifestyle has somehow left him the better for it, teases that he’s learned nothing, but his final words prove otherwise and we see that indeed, the beautiful women in his life, who have cared for him, let him in, and loved him truly have had impact. It’s a great moment.
Alfie (2004)

Film Credits

Director: Charles Shyer
Writers: Bill Naughton
Stars: Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Jane Krakowski