ALFIE (2004). Director: Charles Shyer.
Jude Law is superb as happy-go-lucky, love 'em and leave 'em Alfie, who has come to New York City to make his fortune and bed lots of women. He even winds up going to bed with the woman his best friend loves and hopes to marry. As he puts it, he doesn't mean to hurt anyone, and in truth Alfie is not devoid of a conscience or compassion. One of the best, most touching scenes has him encountering an elderly widower in the men's room of a doctor's office (the doc found a lump on Alfie's penis) who tells him (of his wife) “we weren't all that fond of each other, but we were very close.” New York is certainly full of callow men who use and disrespect women, but Alfie isn't really of the heartless or completely insensitive variety. He's typical of young men who want to sow their oats, avoiding encumbrances, afraid to commit to women who love them because there may be someone even better or more beautiful around the bend – not to mention all those flavors of ice cream that await them. Then of course, the one person who loves them the most and upon whom they can generally depend gets tired of waiting and moves on with someone else – to their regret. Marisa Tomei plays Julie, a young mother who functions as Alfie's “old shoe” but to whom he can't fully commit because she's not quite pretty enough (although he comes to realize how much she really means to him). The script by Shyer and Elaine Pope seems a bit contrived at times to teach the young man a lesson (especially in a scene with spunky Susan Sarandon) and also descends on occasion to suspect sentimentality (Alfie's improbable walk on the beach with the aforementioned widower), but is generally strong. Although there are plenty of love scenes, the movie isn't so much sexy as poignant, with a strong undercurrent of loneliness radiating from many different characters. Mick Jagger has contributed some sassy background songs. Better than the rather boring original film with Michael Caine.
Verdict: A pleasant surprise. ***.