Alfie (2004) DVD Review
What's It All About, Alfie?
“What’s it all about, Alfie?” This is the famous first line of the film’s title song, borrowed from the 1966 version by the same name. That Alfie starred Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. This version stars Jude Law and a host of other beautiful people.
From the very beginning scenes, the viewer follows Jude Law’s character as he tries to answer the question posed in the song and discover the meaning of life.
At the beginning of this movie, he concludes that life is mainly about sex - indulging in sensual pleasures and taking advantage of people to get whatever you want. Oh, and it also helps to improve your vocabulary with the “Word of the Day” calendar.
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The classic 1966 Sonny Rollins soundtrack. The awesome Dionne Warwick sings the title song.
Watch the Trailer for the Movie Here!
Maybe Alfie's Calendar Didn't Include These Words!
Fidelity: Loyalty or devotion, as to a person or cause; faithfulness to one's spouse, lover, etc.
Monogamy: The practice or condition of having a single sexual partner during a period of time.
It's Certainly Not About Fidelity
It appears from the first few minutes of the film that the word “monogamy” has not yet entered our hero’s vocabulary. His philosophy is given to us with the line: “With such a plethora of gorgeous women around, how could a man ever choose to settle down with just one?” The only answer I could give to that is: wait until you learn what true love is, and then you’ll see.
After a short fling with a married woman, we watch Alfie run through a string of relationships, never committing to any of them – never wanting to – until it is too late. The viewer watches him go through all these tragic interpersonal interactions, including fathering a child with his best friend’s fiancé and encouraging her to have an abortion.
Little by little, we find less and less to like about this character. He doesn't appear to care about any woman he sleeps with. All he wants is sex, sex, sex - as long as he doesn't have to suffer the consequences (i.e., unplanned pregnancy). STDs are not even mentioned - as if no one has to worry about that at all, and I guess maybe you don't if you're in the make-believe world of Hollywood. For those of us in the real world, however, if you're going to be that lackadaisical and promiscuous, you need to protected!
Alfie is not a completely unsympathetic character, however, as he does show some actual concern for the son of one of his girlfriends, and he seems genuinely sorry that he hurt his best friend Marlon (played by Omar Epps) by sleeping with his woman. Too bad he didn't think about how it all was going to affect his friend before he unzipped his pants!
Alfie’s turnaround begins when he meets an elderly widower in a restroom, who gives him two pieces of advice: find someone to love, and live every day as if it were your last. Here, for the first time, we see a hint of morality creeping in, and as Alfie returns to the street on his way home, he offers up a little monologue about God: “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about God and death, and if what they taught me in Bible class was true, I’m really in for it.” He concludes, though, that “I won’t be partying with Lucifer anytime soon.” And he returns to his questionable lifestyle.
In the end, though, Alfie begins to understand that life is not all about doing whatever you can to anyone you want. After a few months, he discovers that his best friend’s fiancé lied to him and didn’t get the abortion after all, and he is faced with the fact that now his friend knows that his wife’s child is not his. When he tries to talk to his friend about it, all he can say is, “I never meant …” His friend, Marlon, finishes the sentence for him, “You never mean to hurt anybody, but you do, Alfie.”
Once again, the widower returns to the action with some words of true wisdom. “Think before unzipping. All right, so you screwed up. What are you going to do? … What’s going to happen with the rest of your life?”
Then Alfie tries to make things right in his life. He attempts to settle down with the most prosperous woman he’s run across so far, played by Susan Sarandon, but he finds that she has chosen a younger man over him. He attempts to apologize to some of the women he has manipulated and used, but it is too late. The man who tried so hard not to get involved with anyone emotionally finds that he has been affected emotionally, after all. As he puts it, “Despite my best efforts, I’m beginning to feel some small cracks in my faux finish. When I look back at all the women I’ve known, I can’t help but think about all they’ve done for me, and how little I’ve done for them. … I used to think I had the best end of the deal. What have I got, really? … I’m free as a bird. … My life is my own, but I don’t have peace of mind, and if you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing. What’s the answer? That’s what I keep asking myself. What’s it all about?”
The answer, of course, is that it really should be all about God - the Creator of life. The only character that seems to have any idea about this is the wise old widower, but unfortunately, he does not figure prominently in the plot of the movie. God is just seen as some distant being, waiting to pass judgment, and that is not all there is to God’s character. If only Alfie could have learned more about God’s grace and love in his Sunday School lessons, and let that message sink into his young brain. Then he might have avoided some of the messes and heartache he caused.
Does Alfie Really Change?
The movie is well-acted and well-directed, and it stars a cast of brilliantly beautiful people.
I think the writing leaves a little something to be desired. Where is the character change that is promised all throughout the story? We see glimpses here and there that Alfie is growing as a person, but in the end, he just reverts back to his earlier ways of thinking.
I guess that, if nothing else, the story is realistic. Sometimes people don't change. Sometimes people don't learn from their mistakes. But I'd like to think that it happens more often than not. That's why I find Alfie so reprehensible, annoying, and generally very depressing.
In case you couldn't gather from this hub so far, this is not a film for the whole family. It's not even a film for those of us who like to believe that people can change for the better.
It's a film of sex and basic hopelessness, and I can't rate it very highly. The movie is interesting, yes, but good? Well, let's just say, it's not one of my favorites!
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