Alex & Emma Reviews
Starring: Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson, David Paymer, Sophie Marceau, Paul Wilson, Chino XL, Lobo Sebastian, Rip Taylor, Alexander Wauthier, Leili Kramer, Rob Reiner, Gigi Bermingham, Jordan Lund, Francois Giroday, Robert Costanzo, Cloris Leachman, Earl Caroll, Michael Rapport, and Danica Sheridan
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Is it love... or are they just imagining things?
Alex and Emma is a movie about a guy who has to write a novel in thirty days in order to collect the money from his publisher to pay two gamblers who will otherwise kill him. So he hires a stenographer to take dictation and they fall in love. But the thing is, it's a bad novel a very bad novel. Every time the author started dictating I was struck anew by how bad it was, it was so bad it's not even good romance fiction.
You might reasonably ask why we need to know he's writing in the first place, since the story involves the writer and the girl . But alas, it involves much more: There are cutaways to the story he's writing, and its characters are played by Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, the same two actors in the present day story.
This other story takes place in 1924 and involves people who dress and act like characters from The Great Gatsby. Not the central characters but the characters who attend Gatsby's parties and are in those long lists of funny names. It might have been a funny Idea from the novelist to steal from the Great Gatsby, confident that neither the gamblers nor his publisher would recognize it, but funny ideas are not easy to come by In Alex and Emma.
Alex is played by Luke Wilson and Emma is played by Kate Hudson. He also plays Adam, the young hero of the story within the story, and she plays four different nannies(Swedish, German, Latino, and American) who are employed by a rich French Divorcee(Sophie Marceau) who plans to marry a rich guy(David Paymer) for his money, but is tempted by the handsome young Adam, who is a tutor to her children, who remain thoroughly untutored.
So the story is a bore. The act of writing the story is also a bore, because it consists mostly trying out variations on the 1924 plot and then seeing how they look in the parallel story. Of course chemistry develops between Alex and Emma, who fall in love =, and just as well: There is a Hollywood law requiring fictional characters in such a situation to fall in love, and the penalty for violating it is a crappy movie. I give Alex and Emma a one out of five.
For a film that follows a supposedly brilliant writer, the movie has a significant amount of badly written scenes. One early exchange between Alex and Emma shows off how manufactured the dialogue is. "Here's what I figured. You've got exactly 8 words so far. Since a typed page is 350 words, that's roughly six weeks per page. With one week off for Christmas, two weeks summer vacation, three hundred pages would take approximately 37 years which quite frankly, is a little more than I'm willing to allocate to this project." Now, if Emma was some kind of mathematical genius sure, she might be able to put that math together AND write up that nice speech to deliver it to Alex but as is, it just shows that this was a bit of math and dialogue the writer was so proud of he couldn't let it go even though it doesn't fit the character at all. The bad writing isn't limited to the dialogue either. As the novel is being written anyone watching the movie will be able to recognize how bad it is, with little character development, constantly changing plot elements and the nanny character who changes nationality every couple of days. You would think that this writer, so good that his editor is willing to pay $125,000 for any manuscript he produces would be somewhat of a professional. Yet he's constantly changing his mind on what his characters should be, making last second re-writes and never has any idea where the novel he is writing is going.
The film is extremely predictable and does nothing new with the romantic comedy genre. From the get-go, you can tell that these two characters aren't going to like each other but will in time, fall in love. This isn't a spoiler, what else can you expect from a film who's title is as bland as "Alex & Emma"? It's just the names of the two main characters, no creativity whatsoever. Emma is attractive but clumsy and has those quirky character traits that give off the illusion of character development without actually telling you anything about her. Two examples come to mind: She can't stand tomato skins and likes to read the ending of the book first, then decide if she wants to read the rest of the story based on wether or not she liked the end. These are nice, safe flaws. Nothing that would actually make you think the woman is unlikeable, but enough to create a scene where Alex expresses a slight dislike for her. As for Alex, we're told that he likes to gamble and writes. We can also assume that he's totally irresponsible, with the enormous debt that he's accumulated and the totally derelict apartment that he's living in but hey, Luke Wilson is a handsome guy so that means all he needs is a woman to come and clean him up a little! I found it incredibly ironic that Alex describes his novel by saying "This isn't a comic book, it's a novel. There's character development. Symbolism. Subtext." Going past that idiotic statement I found it very ironic that this exchange of dialogue was present in a film that contains no character development, symbolism or subtext.
Despite the fact that Alex has to finish a novel in 30 days there is never any sense of urgency. With only a few days left the two characters decide to just leave their work behind and go on a date, apparently assuming that the very first draft of the novel is going to be good enough to print and completely ignoring the fact that a large chunk of the text is missing. There is a scene about halfway through the film where Emma trips and drops a significant amount of the text in a puddle of water. Because earlier in the film Emma had a significant amount of complaints about the story you think this is going to be a significant plot point. Will it turn out that Emma is actually going to be the talent behind the book when she re-writes the lost text? Will a rift be created between the two when ALex realizes how careless she's been? I mean his life is literally on the line here! Oh wait, no that isn't the case. It's just a setup for a lame joke as Emma fills in the missing pages with a brief resume of what she remembers happened. It's a pointless scene.
The main characters actually don't share that much screen time in the end because so much of the film is dedicated to the novel's plot. It feels like the only reason Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson are playing characters in the novel is so the audience can believe that the two are getting closer together and the romance at the end won't come out of nowhere. The final shot of the film feels like someone beating you over the head and shouting: you see! it's love! The bottom line is the movie is predictable, it's not very funny, there's no chemistry between the leads and the writing is bad. What is there left that can be good in the film? Not much. (Full-screen theatrical version, July 27, 2013)