Alex and Emma
starring Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson and Sophie Marceau
written by Jeremy Leven
directed by Rob Reiner
This is a re-make, set in Boston, of the Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Tony Curtis movie Paris When It Sizzles. I think it’s pretty good as far as re-makes go. I watched it three times. I like Rob Reiner films. You remember him. He’s the “meat head” from the old U.S. TV sitcom All in the Family (with Carol O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, and Sally Struthers). I like the way he puts himself in his own films in bit parts, almost like how Alfred Hitchcock always inserted himself in his films, only not quite as fleeting.
Alex (Wilson) is a novelist deep in debt to the Cuban mafia. He has to get his next book published soon so that he can use the money to pay off the Cubans. But he has writers block and cannot write it himself. So, he hires a stenographer, Emma (Hudson), to whom he can more comfortably and easily dictate his book. When she arrives at his apartment Emma doesn’t realize that Alex hasn’t written anything at all, that the whole story is not yet even planned out in his head, and he has only a few days to create it. Alex’s position is that he knows his characters, and knowing them, they will tell him the story which he will then dictate to her.
But Emma is not just a stenographer. She is a discriminating reader and she ends up creating the story in tandem with Alex by discussing the plot with him, debating the actions and character personalities, the romantic triangles and clever plot switches, etc. This is a love story. Alex and Emma end up falling in love with each other.
For comparison, and to refresh my memory, I went out the next day and rented the Audrey Hepburn, William Holden original, Paris When It Sizzles. I did not like it as much as I remember myself liking it. I thought the colors were so bright and artificial that it was ugly and hurt my eyes. But, maybe that is just the esthetics of the 1960s. Then, the constant and uninterrupted delivery of Hollywood/movie industry in-jokes grew tiresome after a while. So at the moment I feel that I prefer the re-make.
Paris When It Sizzles was a trial to re-watch. It is more than 120-minutes long, and much of that time is spent watching William Holden race through his word-packed script at rapid speed, playing the procrastinating, juiced-up, cynical screenwriter, Richard Benson. He practically monopolized the film, and I was left wondering about the magnitude of the task of memorizing all that freewheeling, machine gun, sometimes manic monologue. Audrey Hepburn, playing the typist Gabrielle Simpson, is too weak of a comic foil to match Holden’s character’s energy. I mean, Abigail cannot stand up to, or balance Richard Benson the way that Kate Hudson’s Emma can stand up and balance Luke Wilson’s Alex. But maybe at least part of that is because Emma is a more empowered and powerful 21st century woman compared to Gabrielle - two women at opposite ends of the sexual revolution.