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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Jude's stab at raising Caine
By Neil Smith
BBC News Online

Jude Law in Alfie
Jude Law's modern day Alfie has moved to Manhattan
The remake of British comedy Alfie finds Jude Law stepping into Michael Caine's shoes as the loveable lothario with more girlfriends than he can handle.

But the 31-year-old Londoner has opened himself up to criticism by taking on an iconic character so inextricably linked with another actor.

Previous remakes of Caine's movies - Sylvester Stallone's version of Get Carter, or 2003's update of The Italian Job - have received frosty receptions on this side of the Atlantic.

Alfie, however, may prove the exception to the rule - even if it does transplant its cocksure, lady-killing protagonist from swinging sixties London to contemporary Manhattan.


The change of location, however, is not the only thing that distinguishes Charles Shyer's remake from Lewis Gilbert's original.

For one thing, changes in attitudes and sexual mores mean the new Alfie Elkins is hardly the coarse misogynist of old.

Back in 1966, Caine's amoral hero could get away with calling women "birds" and treating them with arrogant disdain.

Law's Alfie, though, is a more deceptive rogue, projecting easy charm and bogus sensitivity while secretly rating every conquest on their "FBB" ("face, boobs, bum").

Sir Michael Caine
Sir Michael Caine was Oscar-nominated for Alfie and Sleuth

The women have changed too. For example, there is no room in the new picture for the mousy, dependent homebody Jane Asher played in Gilbert's version.

In her place is Marisa Tomei as a worldly-wise single parent who quickly sees Law's "heat-seeking bachelor" for the feckless cad he is.

Another new addition is Nikki, a drug-abusing manic depressive played by Law's real-life girlfriend, Sienna Miller.

One consistent character, however, is the "older woman" with whom Alfie contemplates settling down.

First essayed by a brassy Shelley Winters, the role is now played by a coolly elegant Susan Sarandon.

Caine's Alfie raised eyebrows with his casual promiscuity and adulterous relationship with a married woman (Vivien Merchant).


Law's hero, however, is even more sexually adventurous, indulging in three-in-a-bed romps and energetic couplings on the back seats of limousines.

At the end of the first film, Alfie recognises the error of his ways and the hedonistic shallowness of his "little life".

That realisation comes a lot sooner in the remake, with Law cutting a far more contemplative and insecure figure.

By far the most significant alteration, though, comes in the treatment of a secondary character who is forced to abort Alfie's child.

In many respects, the 1966 Alfie and its 2004 counterpart are virtually identical

The illegality of termination required Gilbert to introduce a seedy backstreet abortionist, memorably played by Denholm Elliott.

Now, of course, the procedure is commonplace, allowing Shyer to downplay its importance in the story.

Indeed, while the new Alfie is considerably bolder than its inspiration in some areas, in others it is conspicuously more conservative.


In many respects, though, the 1966 Alfie and its 2004 counterpart are virtually identical.

Caine and Law both speak directly to the camera, while in many places the dialogue remains the same - notably Alfie's famous rhetorical question,"what's it all about?"

Audiences, however, have changed beyond recognition since the first Alfie was released, not least in their appetite for retro remakes evoking the devil-may-care sentiments of less troubled times.

Law and Shyer are no doubt hoping these nostalgic yearnings will conquer any reservations filmgoers may have about giving such a well-loved character a 21st Century makeover.

Alfie opens in the UK on 22 October.

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