I was hard pressed to figure out exactly why Alex is such a dim bulb.
ALEX AND EMMA
An Illusion review by Joan Ellis
The title “Alex and Emma” suggests two characters who command attention – Nicholas and Alexandra come to mind, or Harry and Sally. Unfortunately, this comedy, directed by the greatly talented Rob Reiner who had such a romp with “When Harry Met Sally”, is an hour and a half of one-note boredom. Aiming for fast repartee, Mr. Reiner is forced to deal with a lackluster script that just can’t rise above itself. Writer Jeremy Levin, who once distinguished himself with “Don Juan DeMarco,” must take the blame.
Premise: Alex (Luke Wilson) owes $100,000 to two Cuban gangsters for a gambling loss and has thirty days to pay the debt. He has just one month to write the book he has yet to begin. In the nick of time and by chance, Emma (Kate Hudson) arrives at the door. Will she become Alex’s stenographer? Of course. (The gangsters, you see, trashed his computer,) Alex and Emma each play roles in both the autobiographical book and the real time scenes in Alex’s apartment. Both stories are very tired.
Because Alex (or screenwriter Levin) is such a dull writer, his struggle to tell a tale never comes alive either on the page or in the apartment. Emma, trying to help, brings the movie’s only laughs when she corrects the genuinely awful sentences that fall from Alex’s lips like lead into her steno machine. You will get to know every crevice in the faces of Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson because most of the movie is filmed in close-up, as if one or the other of them is about to say something funny or important. Don’t hold your breath.
I was hard pressed to figure out exactly why Alex is such a dim bulb. Is it the script, or is it the fact that Luke Wilson seems to be sleep walking through his performance? A little of both. There isn’t a spark of energy in his entire performance. Playing Alex’s publisher, Rob Reiner, actor, adds nothing to an already humdrum situation. Without interesting peripheral characters, the burden falls on the two main actors, and one of them is out to lunch.
Surrounded by such a cast, the spirited Kate Hudson tries admirably to stir things up, but everything is stacked against her. Her lines are written for a self-effacing stenographer, not for one half of the wisecracking couple we wish were on screen. “I’m a writer,” says Alex, “All I have is words.” Well. He said it; I didn’t. That’s all the movie has – words, dull ones. Not even the best of actors can make dull words sing.
Let’s hope director Reiner and scriptwriter Levin aren’t in decline. Their new movie isn’t horrible, just mediocre. As the house lights came on, the audience seemed to stretch slowly to its feet as one, trying to shake off the lethargy that had been so carelessly injected into the theater.
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