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Alex and Emma (PG-13)
Warner Bros.
Official Site
Director: Rob Reiner
Producers: Todd Black, Alan Greisman, Jeremy Leven, Rob Reiner, Elie Samaha
Written by: Jeremy Leven, Adam Scheinman
Cast: Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson, Sophie Marceau, David Paymer

Rating: out of 5


Emma (Hudson) likes to read the last page of a book before starting from the beginning. If she likes the ending, she knows she’ll like getting there. As a romantic comedy, I knew the ending of Rob Reiner’s Alex & Emma before I even watched it. But that didn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed getting there.

The movie does have its highlights. Kate Hudson is absolutely winning as always, and communicates her spunkiness with each raise of the eyebrow and every wily grin. Luke Wilson can be over-the-top with his portrayal of the gambling-addicted writer, but he has fun with his character. It’s the script that’s lacking, and the actors do their best with the material given.

Alex Sheldon (Wilson) is a novelist who has accumulated a gambling debt of $100,000 to the Cuban Mafia. To get that much money, Alex must finish his love-story novel and be paid for it by his publisher (Reiner). However, not only does he have writer’s block, but the impatient thugs ransack his apartment, set his laptop aflame, and give him an ultimatum of 30 days to get the money or else. Without typing equipment, Alex gets the brilliant (I’m being sarcastic) idea of pretending he’s a law firm seeking the assistance of a stenographer. Emma Dinsmore shows up at his apartment with her shorthand typewriter, realizes that no, this is definitely not a law firm, and walks out despite Alex’s pleas. Why the screenwriters included the illogical law firm façade is beyond me, except that it is the basis for some comedic relief.

Conveniently for the movie, Emma forgets her scarf at Alex’s, and when she goes back to retrieve it, she becomes more sympathetic to Alex’s plight. Dictation of the novel starts off slow, but when Emma threatens to leave, Alex instantly conjures up his story: a love triangle set in 1924. Thus begins the movie’s split into two semi-parallel worlds—the real and the fictional.

Alex and Emma inhabit the real world. He dictates, she types, all with the time constraints of Cuban loan sharks looming over their heads. Emma often disagrees with the way Alex’s story is going, but is usually silenced by Alex’s argument that he’s the writer and therefore gets to make up stuff the way he wants to.

In the fictional world we have English tutor Adam Shipley (also Wilson), who falls in love with the lovely but unattainable Polina Delacroix (Marceau). To secure her financial future, Polina is set to marry John Shaw (Paymer) a wealthy man she does not love. Emma also reincarnates in this fictional world, first as Polina’s Swedish au pair Ylva, then is rewritten again and again (and again) until she finally becomes the American Anna.

The love triangle occurs between Adam and John, over Polina, but later includes Polina and Anna, over Adam. Meanwhile there is a sort of triangle between Alex and Emma. It may sound confusing, but it’s really not.

What bothers me about these love triangles is their believability. Love triangles are supposed to be complicated. They involve conflict, competition, hurt feelings. When these attributes are watered down like they are in this movie, to make the situations funnier perhaps, I have a hard time caring about who ends up with whom.

At one point Alex looks up and asks Emma, “Who ARE you?” He’s spent so much time with her but doesn’t know anything about her past or what she’s really like; she’s like a stranger to him. From the audience I could’ve asked the same thing about both Emma and Alex, because by the end of the movie they were still strangers to me. The two are a cute and sweet couple, and their counterparts Adam and Anna provide a funny juxtaposition, but it all just seemed too superficial.

—Kelly Hsu

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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