Film Reviews

Alex & Emma: Or, Personal Goals Are My Kryptonite

It might be wise for me to find every instance in which I proclaimed to the world my goal of updating this blog once a week, but I have chosen the (slightly) easier alternative of profusely apologizing to my readers and myself with no intention whatsoever to change my behavior.

This evening’s film is part of the oft-neglected “Remembrance of Films Past” series: Alex & Emma.  I LOVED this movie when it first came out. So let’s evaluate it (tear it apart) critically.

The Film:

Alex & Emma

Where to Watch:

Watch on Youtube; borrow from the library (though I acknowledge that it could be embarrassing to be seen walking around in public with this movie); die slightly from shame that you already own this movie (coincidentally, I have a friend who is getting rid of a copy of this movie. Free to a good home. Or a not-so-good home). The takeaway: don’t pay to watch this.

The Premise:

Luke Wilson plays Alex, a writer with a gambling problem, who must write a novel in 30 days or Cuban thugs will murder him. Alex hires Emma, a stenographer to help him. Yes, A STENOGRAPHER.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Let’s start with the credits. I actually really like the way the credits are animated and wish the entire film had been done this way. Sadly, it was not.

a stylized 1920s animation shows a woman with a parasol, with two men and two women in period costume on either side of her

The movie begins with the aforementioned Cuban thugs breaking in to Alex’s apartment and, among other things, LIGHTING HIS COMPUTER ON FIRE. They also dangle him out of the window and give him 30 days to write a novel, which will cover the cost of his gambling debt…or else. I have trouble believing Alex would really be paid so much for a novel that he would make so much money that he could pay off his debts and live happily ever after (though if this is the case, WHO IS THIS PUBLISHER AND WHERE CAN I FIND THEM???).

a man with a fedora and several gold chains holds a laptop over an open flame in a kitchen
This movie was released in 2003, so he’s burning like $3,000 right there.

One of the Cuban thugs is apparently played by a man named Chino XL. Spinoff about the Cuban mafia? It would have been so much better than this particular movie.

Anyway….the Cuban thugs are going to kill Alex because HE CAN’T WRITE A GODDAMN NOVEL. I think this may be a recurring nightmare for writers who never meet their deadlines.

Apparently Alex wrote a best-selling first novel entitled Love Is Always Having to Say You’re Sorry (this was perhaps the only detail of the film that I found mildly entertaining). Since he no longer has a computer, Alex hires a stenographer to help him write his novel (OBVIOUSLY).

The movie then switches between Alex and Emma writing the novel/ falling in love in bland, generic rom-com fashion and Alex, Emma, and Sophie Marceau playing out the plot of the novel, set in the 1920s.

I won’t go into the details of the plot because it is pretty much the most generic romantic comedy plot you can think of. 1920s Alex falls in love with the beautiful French heiress even though girl-next-door-type 1920s Kate Hudson would be better for him. Meanwhile, present-day Alex and Emma bicker, but only because they’re falling in looooooooooooooooooooooooove and secretly giving each other significant stares.

a woman reads a book at an outdoor book sale while a man in a plaid shirt looks on
Emma’s odd but charming quirk is that she reads the end of a book first to determine whether it will be worth her time. As a book nerd, social acceptance of this concept is a recurring nightmare for me.

Probably the major problem with this film is they are not writing a particularly good novel. There’s a lot of deliberately bad writing. Then there’s Kate Hudson putting on a Swedish accent, then German, then Spanish. It’s so very painful.

a woman with heavy eye makeup and a silk robe holds a white cup and saucer in each hand
Her accents are about as convincing as you imagine.

The Critique:

I don’t understand why I liked this movie so much.

Possibly because Luke Wilson is really pretty in period clothing.

a man in a 1920s white suit sits opposite another man on a train car

Here are a few major hang-ups for me regarding this movie:

Maybe Alex and Emma should have been putting on a play? I’m not convinced this would have made the film significantly better, but it seems like a generally more successful/interesting premise for a movie than writing a novel. Like Moulin Rouge? Or Shakespeare in Love? The Muppets?

Another significant flaw of this movie (and perhaps I’m just projecting my own personal experience with deadlines): if I had 30 days to write a novel with another person, I don’t think I would fall in love with my collaborator. I would probably claw his/her eyes out.

Plus let’s consider the financial issues that plagued me throughout the entire film. If Alex is a starving artist with a gambling problem and still has a really nice fucking apartment in Boston, I have a new career goal. And he gets $125,000 for his novel. WHAT. HOW CAN I MAKE THIS MY LIFE??? Do I have to fall in love with Kate Hudson? Fuck.

Also Alex’s gambling problem basically disappears. Just like in real life. Ha…

The Rating:

Small Pink Panther - Angry 1/5 Angry Pink Panther heads

This wasn’t even a fun bad movie to watch. I kept checking the case to see how long it was, hoping that 96 minutes on the back was a typo, just praying that it would all end soon.

Probably one of the worst movies of Luke Wilson’s career, which (I’m sorry, Luke Wilson) is saying something (and Kate Hudson’s…which is really saying something).  It’s for sure the worst of Rob Reiner’s. Yeah…Princess Bride Rob Reiner. THAT Rob Reiner. This movie is even sadder now.

If I ever made you watch this movie, I sincerely apologize. I deserve to be defenestrated.