Alfie (1966) Review

2 05 2011

Copyright 1966 Sheldrake Films

★ ★ ★ 1/2

For a long time before seeing this film I had always associated it as a comedy; even IMDB identifies the film as such.  Yet, I didn’t really see this film as a comedy at all.  Not that it didn’t have a few comedic moments, but all in all, this was a very dramatic film.

The film follows cockney cad, Alfie (Michael Caine), as he goes from “bird” to “bird” in the swinging 1960s.  He’s the epitome of a shiesty  playboy, sleeping with other men’s wives, getting women pregnant and not staying with them, having staunchly patriarchal relationships and even sleeping with a good friend’s wife and forcing her to get an abortion.  However, with each mishap and side step, Alfie comes closer to realizing that you can’t find happiness in this manner of life.  He always thought he had it all figured out, but in the end, the question lingers as the title track to Cher’s theme song says, “What’s it going to be, Alfie?”

As with many of the films I’ve seen over the last week or two, this film had some really great moments, but on a whole was a bit long and boring at times.  Lewis Gilbert directed this film and I have always liked his very fluid directing style.  For those of you unfamiliar with Gilbert by name, he directed You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker in the Bond series.

Technically, I think the main flaw with the film is its running time of nearly two hours; the subject matter just peters out after a while.  In my opinion, this is a film that I think I would have much preferred had it only ran for about an hour and a half.  Also, worth noting, is the fact that this film is incredibly British; so, if you aren’t up to speed on 1960s British slang, you might want to have Google open to figure out what’s being said at times.

The best part of the film is probably Michael Caine’s performance.  I won’t say it’s amazing or one of my favorite Caine performances, but it was a breakthrough role for him that made his career. Also, in many ways, this role is very much against type from what we’re used to seeing Caine in these days.  Supporting cast includes Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin and Julia Foster.

Overall, this isn’t a bad film, but has things about it that keep me from giving it a higher rating.  It was remade in 2004 with Jude Law taking the leading role of Alfie.  I haven’t seen the remake, but I’ve heard that it is much worse than the original.  In that case, I think I’ll pass.

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