Alfie struck me as a most unusual film. I haven't seen the original version featuring Michael Caine, so I went into this film with no expectations as to how things would play out. Things certainly didn't end the way I thought they would - but that it almost surely a good thing. Jude Law's modern Alfie doesn't deserve a fairy tale ending - indeed, such a flowery ending would have betrayed the real meaning of the entire film. Alfie is a charming little devil, but he's the worst kind of man - a womanizer who leaves broken hearts in his wake as he evades commitment and rushes ever onwards to more women, more cheap thrills, and ever more self-satisfaction. It's hard for me to feel too sorry for a guy like this when he eventually discovers that he's nothing but an empty shell and begins to look longingly at the things he doesn't have. He does come to understand exactly what he is by the end of the movie, but I'm not sure he ever reaches the point of redemption. Every time there seems to be some hope that he will change his life, he falls right back into the lifestyle he is supposedly growing tired of. It's important to note that, at the end, he is basically asking "what's it all about?" He still doesn't know - he's been hurt the very way he has hurt so many others, but he never goes beyond the pain to find moral redemption.
Alfie works his way through a number of women in this story: the unhappily married Dorie (Jane Krakowski from Alley McBeal); Julie (Marisa Tomei), the single mother who pretty much starts Alfie wondering about his priorities in life; Lonette (Nia Long), his best friend's girl and ultimately the instrument of Alfie's most painful lesson about his lifestyle; Nikki (Sienna Miller), a somewhat tragic manic-obsessive; and the rich, mature Liz (Susan Sarandon - and, if I'd known she was in this movie, I never would have watched it). When you come right down to it, Alfie is really just a stupid, stupid man who can't even figure out what he should want, yet regrets not having it. I'm not saying he's not intelligent - but he is stupid. No matter how much he wants to change, nothing manages to change him - not a most embarrassing little problem, a health scare involving the favorite part of his body, or even his ultimate realization of how much he has hurt his best friend. The ending is pretty much open-ended, so hope is not lost - but I'm not optimistic for this character, given his track record as shown in this film.
I should clearly state that I think Alfie is a good film - almost a very good film. Jude Law does an excellent job portraying a man who is much more complex than it might seem - and he manages to make all of his little soliloquies to the audience very effective, as they basically provide the insight into whatever soul is lurking behind Alfie's charm and carefree attitude. There's a real, tragically flawed person in there, a man who can't seem to change no matter how much he wants to. Had they wrapped the film's ending up in a pretty little bow, I would have extremely critical of this film. As it is, I seem to like this movie more, the more I reflect upon it - and that's a sign of quality film-making and good story-telling.