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Alex and Emma Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/20/2003

I have been a little disappointed with Rob Reiner as a director lately.  For one, he hasnít been making enough movies in the last few years, and the last one he did helm, 1999ís The Story of Us, was a huge letdown.  I canít say I was excited to see his latest, Alex and Emma, even though he has directed some of the best chick flicks ever, like The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, and The American President.  The trailers for this one made it look kind of corny and stupid.  Fortunately, it was much better than I thought it would be.

 

Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) is an author who has a bad gambling problem.  Since he made some bad bets, he owes the Cuban mafia $100,000.  His only way to get the money is to finish his latest novel and collect the $125,000 that his publisher, Wirschafter (Reiner), has promised him upon the novelís completion.  He unfortunately has two problems with completing that task.  First, he has developed a case of writerís block (he canít even figure out the first sentence.)  Second, he no longer has a laptop computer because of a little visit from Bobby (Lobo Sebastian) and Tony (Chino XL), a couple of mafia thugs.  One of them torches the laptop over the stove (after hanging him out the window) as a message to him that he needs to pay up.  He tells them about his agreement with Wirschafter and insists he is almost done.  They give Alex 30 days to complete the novel and collect the money, or they will be back to bump him off.  Since he no longer has a computer, Alex decides that the only way he will finish in time is to hire a stenographer to take down his dictation.  Under the guise of being a law firm, Alex places an ad for a stenographer, and Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) answers the ad.  After realizing that it really wasnít employment in a law firm, she turns down the job.  She changes her mind when she learns of Alexís situation with the Cuban mafia, and that the job might be interesting, since she likes the end of his first novel (she likes to read the end of a book first to find out if she will enjoy getting to the end.)  The story Alex dictates to her starts off slowly, but picks up steam after Emma threatens to quit.  He soon starts spooling off a story about Adam Shipley (also played by Wilson), a 1920s era writer whoís been hired to tutor Andre (Alexander Wauthier) and Michele (Leili Kramer), the children of Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau.)  Polina is a beautiful French woman who has been having severe money problems.  She has two ways of getting some money: either wait until her wealthy grandmother (Cloris Leachman) dies and leaves Polina her inheritance, or marry her wealthy suitor, John Shaw (David Paymer), a man she does not love.  Adam is immediately attracted to Polina from the second he steps off the boat and tries to figure out a way to get Polina the money so she wonít have to be with Shaw.  He eventually finds himself also attracted to her au pair, whose character changes from the Swedish Ylva, to the German Elsa, to the Spanish Eldora, and finally to the American Anna (all played by Hudson.)  As Alex is dictating the story, Emma keeps interrupting him with her own thoughts.  This intrigues and frustrates Alex at the same time.  The real life story starts to parallel the fictional story as Alex and Emma start falling for each other, making Emma wonder if there is a Polina in Alexís real life.

 

Iím not going to say this is Reinerís best chick flick (I still give that honor to When Harry Met Sally), but it is a good date flick.  The gambling setup is a little hokey, but the performances of Wilson and Hudson are good.  I wouldnít say they have the best chemistry together, but individually, they are fine.  Leachmanís very brief cameo is a highlight of the movie.  The dialogue is sharp and funny, and I liked the transitions between the story being told and the modern day reality situation.  I did find it ironic that the end of the story was originally going to buck the traditional way a love story usually ends, yet, without giving anything away, the movie ends the way a traditional chick flick usually ends.

I will fully admit that this one is more for the ladies than the guys, but Alex and Emma is entertaining enough that it wonít feel like human torture for the guys.  As for Reiner, I hope this means he will increase his movie load.  His next film doesnít have to be a chick flick (he is pretty versatile, as films like This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, and Misery have proven), but I hope it doesnít take another four years for him to come out with it.  I still like ya, Meathead!

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