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Alex and Emma

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Alex and Emma

Starring: Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson
Director: Rob Reiner
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: June 2003
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Sophie Marceau, David Paymer, Alexander Wauthier, Rip Taylor, Jordan Lund, Lobo Sebastian, Chino XL, Cloris Leachman, Robert Costanzo

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

The more things change, the more they remain the same, as the French proverb goes, and if you don't believe that, you might after seeing Rob Reiner's "Alex and Emma." Whether you're living in America now or in in 1924 or the Athens of 500 B.C., your emotions will be about the same. Your dress, way of talking, cultural mores might differ, but deep down your life will still be defined with bliss, disappointments, successes and failures and your inner life may be remarkably similar all around.

This dualism same emotions but different cultural attitudes-- helps to make the work of a novelist one of the more intriguing jobs you can have. For the most part, you'll write what you know, getting kicks out of creating composite characters based on the people you're familiar with, even getting revenge on those bosses and boyfriends, gold-diggers and girlfriends that make your life miserable. You might even put a happy ending on what in real life makes you sad or a bitter one to meet the tastes of a contemporary audience.

You might think that a guy like Brad Pitt would generate more chemistry with the glamorous Kate Hudson than Luke Wilson, but Reiner creates a sweet, gal-next-door image from the talented star who was more sophisticated in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and hipper in "Almost Famous." Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) and Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) do not exactly meet cute in this one, but their convergence is an original. Alex, who has written a successful first novel, has become blocked and because of gambling debts owes the Cuban mafia $100,000. He has only thirty days to come up with the dough, which has been promised to him by his publisher (Rob Reiner) upon receipt of the manuscript. Since two thugs have trashed his laptop computer, he needs a stenographer. His ad brings in Emma, who in the tradition of romantic comedies is turned off at first by the slob she meets at the door of his apartment. Once Alex gets under way on the book, we see how his current predicament is reflected in the Boston setting of 1924. In the triangular romance invented by Alex Adam (Luke Wilson) must come up with $500,000 in order to get the sophisticated Polina (Sophie Marceau) to break up with the wealthy John Shaw (David Paymer) to whom she owes that sum. At the same time, Alex is tempted by one of Polina's employees, who is at first a Swedish made, Ylva, then a German Elsa, a Spanish Eldora and an American au pair Anna (all played by Kate Hudson), the last representing a woman who genuinely cares for him.

Rob Reiner, a terrific comedian in his own right ("All in the Family") and director of a series of films as diverse as the romantic "When Harry Met Sally," the satirical "This is Spinal Tap" and the fabulist "The Princess Bride," moves flawlessly from the Boston of the current day to that city in 1924, using the past as a mirror of Alex and Emma's growing affection in contemporary times. This is a sweet romance that is not marred by the predictable trajectory (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl) because Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson are so adorable together that you wish them the best.

The film was shot primarily in the Greater Los Angeles area, using the beach scene at Cabrillo Beach, the ferry dock and boardwalk in coastal San Pedro, and just a single day in Boston itself. Though the movie is not a remake, it is loosely based (of all things) on the story behind the creation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Gambler," about a man (based on the author himself) who had just thirty days to finish a book or he would have had to turn over all rights to his past and future works to his creditor. "Alex and Emma" was written by Jeremy Leven, who is no Dostoyevsky nor would he wish that temperament on himself, but the picture is saved from being mere fluff by the alluring flashbacks, giving the movie audience far more entertaining insight into the job of fiction writers than that awful computer software that promises to make you the next John Grisham.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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