A Survey: Did Women Love Alfie in 'Alfie' Just Because He Was Handsome Michael Caine/Jude Law, Or Was I Right To Have A Vague Sense That Magic Was Involved Somehow?
either a potion or a wizard's spell
Previously in this series: Talking to women about Bob Odenkirk’s line, “My little women!” in the movie Little Women.
Have you ever seen the movie ‘Alfie’?
Carta: No, I haven’t
Mattie: No sir, I haven’t
Frankie: No, although I am a huge Michael Caine fan and I’ve watched his acting masterclass where he reveals his secret for addressing the camera directly as he did in Alfie (the secret is to treat the camera not as an audience, but as ONE person)
Nick: The remake, but not the original
Connor: I have not, but I love the song
Peyton: No. Took me a second to realize you weren’t talking about the alien who looks like a baby horse.
Louis: No, this is a real cultural blind spot for me.
Sarah: Wow. Danny I never know what you’re ever gonna say. You’re like Wendy Williams, just totally unpredictable. No.
Oliver: I think I owned the DVD of the Jude Law version but I'm not sure why.
John: Yes — although I watched it more as a nostalgic favor to my British husband, a historical document that the 60s sexual revolution was all about pleasing men's needs, and for that Burt Bacharach title song. Did you know he wrote “Beware Of The Blob”? Google it. Fine example of the “Bossa Nova Halloween” genre.
[If no] Have you ever heard of the movie ‘Alfie’?
Carta: I have no memory or awareness of this movie. Hold on, I’ll watch the trailer... Yeah, no, zero awareness of this movie. I watched the 2004 Jude Law trailer and like... wow, this did not make me want to watch this or any other movie.
Mattie: Both versions, yes!
Connor: No, but I love the song
Peyton: Yes, I have, insofar as I've seen the movie poster that's just Jude Law in a tux looking all wry. White background. There may or may not be beautiful women on either side of him.
Louis: Yes, both versions!
Cecilia: Yes. In elementary school I used to look at the VHS cover for a long time every time I went to go choose a movie to rent from Narberth Video. But I never chose it.
[If no] I haven’t seen it either. But I know there’s a version from the 60s starring Michael Caine, and a remake from the 00s starring Jude Law. Does that ring a bell?
Carta: Oh god, it’s based on a 60s movie? If the entire premise is, as indicated by the trailer, that Alfie's dick is TOO good, I... how did this get two movies
Frankie: Yes. I know so much about Alfie, both the original and the Jude Law remake, that I really had to pause and think hard about whether I’d seen it. I think I know as much as it’s possible to know about it without having seen it. WHY haven’t I seen it? It seems impossible that I never got around to seeing it. I love Michael Caine. I’ve seen “The Wrong Box” (1966) multiple times for young Michael Caine. I wonder if I avoided Alfie because it sounded really straight?
Connor: I do remember there was a remake!
Peyton: Didn’t know it was a remake
Elon: Yes, obviously!
Tori: No. I’m 27, so again I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Cecilia: Definitely know about this. I thought it was Russell Brand though.
I was quarreling with my wife in a dream last night and at one point I said ‘I feel like I’m in the movie ‘Alfie’ or something,’ to which she said ‘That’s really unfair.’ I’ve never seen it, so I thought it was odd (upon waking) that I would have tried to use it to win a point in an argument, even in a dream.
Here is my broad sense of what “happens” in ‘Alfie.’ Michael Caine (and later Jude Law) is very attractive to woman. They’re crazy about him. I think there is an Austin Powers-like sequence where he tries to walk down the street and women just go absolutely nuts and start chasing after him. Now to the final question:
Whether you have seen Alfie or not, whether you have vague memories of the Jude Law trailer from fifteen years ago or not, do you think that women love Alfie just because he is young and handsome, or because he has obtained a special potion or wizard’s spell? Because I was trying to describe my dream to Grace and Lily this morning, and in so doing was forced to try to explain the premise of Alfie, at which point I said, “Women love him. That’s the plot of the movie, I think, is that he’s just a regular handsome guy trying to go about his day, but women won’t leave him alone, trying to rub unguents and such onto his skin and smell his hair, I think because he has a special potion, or a wizard’s spell,” and I realized I had no idea whether there was a supernatural element to Alfie, or just good old-fashioned English male handsomeness, which has the shortest shelf life of all the various male handsomenesses in the world, that early leaf, the flower that’s only so an hour…
Carta: I mean, I think this movie is how an incel sees the world?? Like, a handsome guy like Jude Law is just destroying women's fragile hearts by having an emotionally unavailable dick? And he doesn’t really have to try because he’s handsome and has a good jaw bone or whatever?
Mattie: I think it’s just nice to look at young Michael Caine (and later Jude Law)! think about Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I would go nuts for him, in terms of finding an unguent
Frankie: Women love Alfie and won’t leave him alone because he’s Michael Caine. I fail to see what’s confusing about that
Nick: Ladies love Alfie because he looks and talks like Jude Law, and he's fantastic at layering. That's why I loved him anyway. I also loved him in The Talented Mister Ripley. He's a sun god. He's so good at scarves
Connor: Isn’t he rich? I thought maybe he was rich. I may just be basing this on the song.
Peyton: I don’t think there's a supernatural element. I think Jude Law is just hot enough that the audience will accept his hotness as a motivating plot factor without question. How else do you explain The Talented Mr. Ripley?
Louis: I’m like 98 percent sure he’s just charming, but it’s theoretically possible there’s a supernatural twist no one ever told me about because they didn’t want to spoil the surprise of Alfie. I’m going to look this up later (did not want to taint the purity of my response), because I’m definitely more interested if he’s some sort of wizard, ethics of love potions aside.
Elon: Women loved Alfie because he’s Michael Caine/Jude Law. I’d find the supernatural element theory more persuasive if Alfie were, say, Wallace Shawn. But actually I once took a date to the New York Review of Books anniversary party and she flirted with Wallace Shawn, so who knows.
Sarah: There is no wizard’s spell. I honestly thought till this moment there was an Austin Powers mojo thing involved…like the movie was about how he was a ladies man who soon lost his mojo and had to find true love? The thing about Alfie is that he’s very hot?
Oliver: I think he’s just moderately handsome and that’s the plot.
Tori: Much like my dear father’s name (Neville), women are not attracted to men named Alfie unless they are rewritten into heroes by Rowling and her ilk. Even then, many see through her propaganda.
Cecilia: I think he’s a cad already and then there's some magic like, British Axe Body Spray [they call it Lynx over there!] that takes it up a notch to love-spell levels. Which sounds like a really weak plot progression so I actually hope he's a nerd at first and then the Axe magicks him stud.
John: I think the real question this raises is, do we think Michael Caine and Jude Law are, in fact magic? Michael Caine’s only magic power is hiding fairly conservative political beliefs from Americans but I do think there’s an argument that Jude Law has a touch of the uncanny insofar that his entire notable body of work is about him being beautiful and doomed and having to die to further the plot or some cause. Gattaca. The Talented Mr. Ripley. AI. Enemy At the Gates is about two men arguing over who is going to kill themselves for the noble cause of Communism more, rather than kissing it out. Existenz is about tormenting him with a new orifice. The only proper end to a Jude Law version of Alfie would be him being ripped apart a drunken band of his conquests (I have not seen that one. I assume that does not happen.)
BONUS QUESTION: Do you think there’s any connection between the movie ‘Alfie’ and Alfie Allen? He’s that guy who had a real bad time on Game of Thrones, and every once in a while someone says on Twitter, ‘Hey, remember Alfie Allen? One time his sister wrote a song about how all he ever does is smoke weed and then he got tortured for like nine episodes on Game of Thrones.’ Maybe he was named after the movie? Or maybe he had a cameo in it?
Carta: If there was a remake of this movie starring Alfie Allen where he got sexually tortured as retaliation for his handsomeness I would be much more interested in watching it. Say what you will about Alfie Allen, but that guy can sweat and cry and take sexual torture onscreen like no other
Mattie: I do not think there is an actual connection inasmuch as it’s the only other Alfie I can think of and he ALSO comes to mind for me. I literally just realized it’s probably short for Alfred. The thing about me is my brain doesn’t work at all. [Do you think it’s like, a Young Batman thing, then?] Imagine being so attractive women are throwing poultices at you and then leaving that situation to raise a horrible boy while living in a closet inside of a mansion, and then the boy wants you to learn how to sew a kevlar vest into a bat costume? Put me back in the swinging streets of London! Yeah, baby! [Yeah, baby!]
Frankie: I never made this connection but now that you mention it, I bet Mr. and Mrs. Allen were huge Michael Caine fans too, and I would love to meet them. I want to say here that I have an autographed photo of Michael Caine on the set of Secondhand Lions, another Michael Caine film I have never seen. A family friend somehow procured it for me when I was in high school and he was in middle school, because he knew I loved Michael Caine. I still have it and it’s one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received, and a testament to my ability to stan an actor without seeing most of his movies.
Nick: I didn’t know Alfie Allen is real! I played that Lily Allen song a lot in my early 20s until my roommate asked “what is that silly march” and now I can only hear it as a march and I’m ashamed
Connor: I feel like there’s a good chance Alfie Allen was named after the movie because I just googled and his legal birth name appears to be Alfie rather than Alfred as I’d previously assumed! Also his mother is a film producer, but too young to have worked on the first Alfie, I checked.
Peyton: I don’t think Alfie Allen had anything to do with Alfie, the Jude Law movie, no. I do remember being surprised that the Lily Allen song was about him. I guess he’s now doing better than Lily, so good for him.
Louis: He had such a bad time on Game of Thrones, but in the end, didn’t we all. I remember when I first realized that song was about him, a twist on par with the movie Alfie involving magic, and he’s very charming, so I do assume at least a tangential connection.
Elon: Yes, yes, and absolutely.
Sarah: I don’t think so? But I think all British famous people have a bit of nepotism so I’m sure there’s something there.
Oliver: Do you mean Theon? He's definitely Jude Law and Michael Caine adjacent in terms of handsomeness.
Tori: [Was not familiar with Alfie Allen]
Cecilia: Didn't Grace hook up with that guy? [No, she thought for a while that she had hooked up once with a guy who had a significant part on Game of Thrones but later she realized she was mixing him up with a different British actor.]
John: I just remembered I technically have a portrait of Michael Caine in my bathroom.
In conclusion, I worry that I may have come across as judging both Jude Law and Michael Caine too harshly. I do think that they are very handsome indeed, and do not doubt that many women, both fictional and otherwise, would want to have sex with them, and/or date them. But my vague memory of the movie poster(s) left me with a sense that there was somehow an element of the supernatural involved, too. But perhaps I was simply confusing Alfie (1968) with the Searchers’ “Love Potion Number 9” (1959).
I love the surprise twist that you haven’t seen Alfie either! I had to go back and read the whole piece again with this new information, kind of like when I watched The Usual Suspects for the second time.