Alex and Emma

By David Mumpower

July 8, 2003

The three stars mentally add up their paychecks.

“You’re the one they will want to kill” is the line uttered by stenographer Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) to successful author and failed gambler Alex Sheldon (played by lesser Wilson brother Luke) in the movie Alex and Emma. It’s closer to the truth for me to say that I wanted to kill both of them plus director Rob Reiner, writer Jeremy Leven, and all of the soulless suits at Warner Bros. responsible for green-lighting this garbage.

As a huge fan of Kate Hudson due to her winsome performance in Almost Famous and a to-the-death (or maybe I should say to-the-pain) fan of Rob Reiner as a director, I expected this movie to provide some blissful relief from the living hell of my daily existence. After all, that’s what films are for, right? Sadly, I would have been better off delivering pizzas in Bosnia than watching this abortive attempt at entertainment.

 In theory, Alex and Emma is the story of a down-on-his-luck writer who owes the Cuban mafia one hundred grand. The way he has agreed to pay them back is to publish a novel which will earn him wages of one hundred and twenty five thousand, meaning that if he does succeed, he’s out of debt and gets to keep a bit of cash for himself. Then, for no apparent reason, thugs show up on behalf of their boss and burn his laptop, preventing him from accomplishing the task the parties had agreed upon within the 31-day time frame they have given him. If the book isn’t written by then, the Cubans will kill our hero. Don’t get too excited; it ain’t gonna happen.

With this loss of his word processor, Alex is forced to hire a stenographer to transcribe his ideas as they formulate in his head. Enter Emma, a shrew-in-training who initially dismisses Alex for the falsehoods he printed in his employment ad. He has claimed to be part of a law firm rather than a published author.  Why he would lie about his need for a personal assistant by calling it a corporate job with a law firm is never spelled out, and one of countless examples of sloppy writing in a movie about the mechanics of quality writing.

 Over the course of her short-term employment, Emma provides her boss with a wonderful commodity for someone writing a romantic tale. Her feminine perspective and Socratic methodology force him to overcome the normal pot holes a writer faces during the creative process. Her presence challenges him to accomplish a greatness he had considered impossible to achieve due to the short time frame allowed for the completion of his book.

Along the way, the two leads begin to construct the course of events in the novel using real life conflict as an impetus. The story Alex had intended to tell about a tutor who is hopelessly in love with a countess evolves into a story of a gifted young man searching to find the partner he really wants while overcoming his fear of intimacy. Needless to say, over the month of interactions, Alex and Emma begin to have feelings for each other and the movie builds toward an inevitable climax of warm fuzzies. And I didn’t care a bit about any of it.

The worst damnation I can use is that I am normally a complete sucker for this genre and even Rob Reiner’s work within it. The American President is a particular favorite but even the most mundane of romantic comedies will generally warm my heart at least a little bit. When the end of Alex and Emma finally arrived, though, I felt no compunction about my desire to move along with my day and forget about the movie I had just had the displeasure of witnessing. Read what She Said.



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