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Laramie Movie Scope:
Alex and Emma

Makes up in humor for what it lacks in reality

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2003) Another romantic comedy from director Rob Reiner, who also has a bit part as book publisher Wirshafter, includes Norah Jones singing "Those Sweet Words." Terrific song but the movie's mostly mediocre.

A pair of Cubans burst into Alex Sheldon's lousy apartment, demanding payment of $100,000 and hang him out the window several stories above the street by his ankles (the same thing happens to Vince Vaughn in Be Cool) when he can't produce the money; then generously they give him 30 days to write his novel (for which he will be paid more than enough to cover the debt) or die.

Sheldon (Luke Wilson), a successful author of a first novel (a comedy about the fear of commitment), had gambled away his $75,000 publisher's advance on horses, trying to impress the woman (smart, funny, beautiful, and interested in him) of his dreams. Desperate, he advertises for a stenographer to take dictation; but when Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) appears at his door, realizing that this is not the law office of Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, and Van Buren, and hears that Sheldon can't pay her until the manuscript has been completed (if it gets completed), she says "Unhand me" and flees.

Nevertheless, she returns, of course, to retrieve her scarf, and after reading the ending (she always reads the ending of a book first) of Sheldon's first novel agrees to the assignment. In their first five hours on the project, Sheldon manages to compose eight words. Once again Emma threatens to leave, which spurs the author into wordsmithing.

The story begins on a train in 1924 as Adam Shipley (Luke Wilson) travels to the island of St Charles off the coast of Maine to become an English tutor for the two children of Polina Delacroix (Sophie Marceau) when he engages in a conversation with John Shaw (David Paymer), who is on his way to marry Polina.

Along the way, Emma offers her criticisms and opinions, occasionally convincing Sheldon to make changes. The impoverished and pure Adam falls in love at first sight with Polina (What's the attraction?) and her ample (heaving) bosom, but Shaw (who has slimmed down and gotten a mustache) is wealthy, capable of meeting her desire for luxury. If Polina's grandmother were to die, Polina would inherit her own fortune; or perhaps, she asks Adam: "Would you kill Shaw for me?"

Adam shares his abstract feelings of fate and destiny with the Swedish au pair, Ylva (Kate Hudson), who misinterprets his meaning. Similarly Emma's initial aversion toward Sheldon - whom she judged to be a mess, a liar, and a slob - moderates toward his being "somehow nice."

Gradually the obstacles create a plot with a triangular relationship, which after three weeks result in Sheldon's having written himself into a corner and writer's block. What next? Ylva changes to the German Elsa then to the Spanish Eldora before settling into Anna from Philadelphia. The grandmother dies and comes back to life. Adam loses the little money he has in a casino, then borrows $5000 from three flamenco dancers at 200% (with the requirement it be paid back in a year or with his life) for another wild night at the roulette table.

His conflict as the writer with Emma (the reader), who notes the interweaving of elements from Sheldon's actual life, he says is that from the outset, "You've had it in for Polina," who, Emma recognizes, is desirable because she is unobtainable, fictional, while Anna, who already loves him, is available and real.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)