I can’t seem to think reasonably where to start or conclude this movie’s review with. But to make the long story short, in my view this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly the best in its genre. The movie is not only entertaining, beautifully crafted and art directed, with top-of-the-notch acting (you’re talking about Jude Law here), there are also lots, and lots of lessons of life (philosophies, etc.) in this movie. If you want to know why, and you don’t mind getting some light spoilers, then read on…
As a side note, this movie is a remake of an old movie of the same title, which I didn’t watch (and don’t intend to). I found this movie out of entirely coincidence, I didn’t read any reviews before seeing this movie, I just saw it in the shelves, I read the back cover, and I thought I would give it a try. I was so glad I did.
I usually begin my reviews by commenting (and/or criticizing) about the most important crews: the director, the art director, the storywriter, the cameramen, the sound director… To say that all of them did their job well is clearly an understatement. I was totally immersed into the movie, and everything just fits so well. The music, the cinematography, the colors, the sound, the dialogue, the style, … There are lots and lots of detail to observe, and they just fit in. Nothing seems out-of-place in this movie. A brilliant composition in cinematic quality, and a very good storyline in itself. Note that the “story” may be nothing extraordinary, but the way it’s presented, and the lessons to be learned from the storytelling, it’s what the real masterpiece here.
Alfred Elkins, but just call him Alfie
The first and foremost character, and is also the best-portrayed in this movie, is Alfie (Jude Law). Even if he can’t act, I’d still cast him as the primary role because he’s just so… Alfie! Jude Law did a very, very wonderful job in this movie. The task is more than difficult: a very cheerful, confident metrosexual man, who gets caught in depressing situations at times, plus… he narrates the movie. The narrating part is the most surprising. Most movies will try to immerse you in the movie by separating the scene from the “real world” (which is you, the movie audience). Alfie does it in a completely different way, he tells you every bit of detail of what he thinks and does, while staring right at your eyes. This is played beautifully that the effect is, while you still think you’re watching a movie, you also feel what Alfie feels throughout the movie.
Alfie is very much not the typical type of guys in Indonesia. And I wish never (or no women will ever find me attractive.) There are lots of things to like about Alfie, at least in my view. He’s kind, sincere, radiates warm comfortable feeling, likes to have fun and loves to brighten the days of everyone (especially attractive women) around him. There are also things to hate about Alfie, and again, in my view, they’re understandable. Women want commitment and he doesn’t (currently). The real problem is his extremely hedonistic philosophy. Why make something that’s still fun… difficult? Why “end” something that both of us enjoy together and replace it with something much, much more problematic (i.e. the institution of marriage)?
Alfie’s character, including Jude Law himself, is definitely my role model, to some extent. The way he talks, walks, moves, kisses,… everything , including his clothing, is a very good example to be a man that easily attracts most women (including in Indonesia.) I say that because even though if you site behind a desk all day long and you never go out, and you still have a chance getting a girl, you’ll have a hard time beating the record of an Alfie-ish guy. Plus, with all the experience Alfie has with girls, there is no doubt he has a deeper understanding of [most] women’s complexity than the average men.
There are lots and lots of highly quotable phrases in this movie. I don’t know where to start, even the first sentence in the movie, “You’re lucky you know. I rarely allow anyone into my flat,” is definitely quotable. It implies his cool, confident, and cocky attitude in words that… how should I say this, “nonverbal” words. It’s like communicating the “I am cocky but funny, arrogant but friendly, confident but humble,” without saying these exact words, actually far from these concrete words. “You’re lucky” represents his appreciation and respect to the one he talks to (the movie audience). “I rarely allow anyone” implies that he’s hard to get, not cheap, confident, cocky, a bit arrogant, but still compliments you because you’re one of the rare ones. “…into my flat,” signifies his honesty (he lives in a flat, not an apartment, and he said that directly without any word manipulation), humility (that he’s a simple man, average worker that isn’t an owner of a Fortune 500 company), and again… very high self-confidence. (he doesn’t feel that living in a flat is something “embarassing.”) This one simple sentence, is far, far from the general attitude of Indonesian men. And with all the prejudice most Indonesian people have, it’s quite hard to do so.
If you think the first words were the only good line, you couldn’t be more wrong. There are several popularly known truisms in this movie, like “Never expect any thanks in this life,” and “No good deed goes unpunished.” But many many quotable lines in this movie are original, and they’re so good that I’d say almost every line in this movie is individually crafted to perfection, thenintegrated with the rest of the movie. And yet, the movie doesn’t sound at all like a Shakespeare play, it’s still the old-fashioned modern American-English life casual talks, and funny. Alfie also likes to drop in “sophisticated” words at times, I like it so much! A line such as:”And with such a plethora–calendar word meaning “abundance”, of gorgeousness and diversity– well, how could a man ever choose to settle down with just one?” has many things to say, but it expresses Alfie’s underlying philosophy, in a friendly, casual, and non-intimidating way.
She’s the first girl you’ll meet in this movie. Although there are plenty of beauties in this movie, and some exposed skin as well, I have to stress that for me, they’re definitely not the main attraction of this movie. It’s still Alfie, and the people that “revolve” around him (at least, he thinks so.) The women are there because they’re needed, they’re very important, and without them Alfie will have no story to tell you (of course.)
Dorie kinda’ remembered me of a friend of mine, and she’s definitely one of the most typical stereotypes of women life in many places… including Indonesia. Married, but doesn’t get exactly what she “wants.” She’s open to alternatives, and actually are excited if there is any. And she’s willing to give everything she has. She is also not very demanding, sweet, and quite sincere in some ways.
She’s the “second” girl, although she’s somewhat Alfie’s official girlfriend at a time. She’s also a typical stereotype of girls… and I’ve personally met [lots of?] girls like her: “Do we have something here, or I am just a glorified… booty call?” I (in real life) always respond to that right question with the wrong answers, but Alfie’s resolution to that is definitely the most elegant, manly one, that really fits his style.
She’s a somewhat demanding type, likes exciting stuff, doesn’t hide her feelings and her desires. She can be very cheerful and fun. But she can be very dreadful, and easily hurted. And once you did that to her, you’ve lost her forever. She expects pure loyalty, commitment, faith, and trust, (because these are her own values and principles in life) and doesn’t tolerate any deviation.
I don’t really “like” her… physically, that is my highly subjective personal opinion, but is in no way represents her quality or her role in this movie. She, and Nikki, are the most critical and most well-acted female characters in this movie. Lonette’s character is arguably the most central female role in this movie, and is the one with the highest conflict meter. Nia Long, the actress who portrayed Lonette, has a much, much heavier burden than Julie Estelle (Alex) in Alexandria. The difference is like comparing diamond to dirt in Jupiter: Nia Long shines sympathetically, and Julie Estelle can keep doing her terrible performance for herself while the public still likes her pretty face.
Lonette’s experience is definitely the prime case of “Never trust women” philosophy, that I personally [should have] held very dearly. It’s the ancient “Adam & Eve” irony, plottified and dramatized, and still portrays a similar message: Be careful with women, you may get everything you wished for, and then some more.
Nikki’s role is very critical, and is probably the only female role in this movie that actually tries to “understand” what’s going on from a woman’s perspective. For the most part of the movie you’ll only be given the Alfie’s world from Alfie’s point of view, except when Nikki kicks in. Her role is so touching, that you’ll begin to sympathize with her, and in some way you may start to dislike Alfie (if you haven’t already up to this point). This is natural, and definitely is what the director and storywriter intended.
I’m not sure if I have met a “real” Nikki in my life, but I’m definitely looking forward to. She’s an angel with broken wings, if you cure her wounds, she’ll be the most angelic, loyal, female soul mate you’ll ever have for your entire life… until you told her to go. I’m beginning to think that I’ve ever lost one (or more?) myself… 🙁
This is the girl, err… woman, I can’t [ever] understand. Out of this world, at least, my world. I can’t comment much on her role, but she’s perfect for the purpose of ending the movie. I used to say to my friend, “A friend can be your worst enemy, when they left you, or even betrayed you, for their own sake. An enemy will always be your best friend, for they’ll always tell the truth about your bad sides.” It’s so true (what I said), when I think of Liz as Alfie’s “enemy.” Alfie’s friends and past girls are actually his “enemies,” because they loved him so much “as he is” and left him when something went “wrong.” Liz, on the other hand, stands apart and with her help can only Alfie realize his own weaknesses, the ones he blatantly ignored for so long.
Oh, no, it’s not just about the women… There’s a very, very deep lesson of true friendship here. Marlon is Alfie’s best friend, soul mate, … turned to… well, you can guess what. It’s hard to comment about this, but the actor plays this role very well, and it’s seriously a goddamn hard role as seen in the screen shot.
This movie isn’t for everyone. Especially not everyone in Indonesia. But this movie has a very special place in my heart. If you try to keep your judging aside, you’ll enjoy this movie and can truly appreciate the all the philosophical ideas in this movie. The movie doesn’t, and never does, try to tell you “this is right” or “that is wrong,” but shows you what could happen… and let the audience decide for themselves which one(s) is better. The first words heard I the movie, which are also some of the last words before credits, which are also the tag line, “What it’s all about?” pretty much sums it all. It suggests that you rethink what you’ve done all this time, whether you’ll be happy later after you’ve achieved all your goals [that you think will make you the happiest person on earth?]… or will you feel empty, left behind, unsatisfied, and (in worse situations) devastated?
If you’re seeing this movie just to have fun with your friends, I’d say you won’t be bored by this movie. But if you can make up an open mind, let the flow of the movie immerses you deep within, and then add the experience you feel from this movie to your ever-expanding understanding of the “purpose of Life,” then you’ll truly appreciate this movie.
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