If the film is neither funny nor romantic, how can it possibly succeed as a romantic comedy?
Emma and Alex have one of those awkward, arguing relationships that almost always means in the movies that they are destined for each other. As Alex dictates the novel, the audience is given clips of the novel’s story, acted out by Alex and Emma. One also hears all the ways Emma thinks the story should be improved; Alex embraces some suggestions and refuses others.
This plot intends to lead the audience to several questions: Will Alex finish the novel in time to save his own life? Will Alex and Emma fall in love? Are the characters in Alex’s novel based on real people? To answer any of these questions here would give away too much of the thin plot of this film.
The plot also produces other questions unintentionally: Would Alex’s publisher not give Alex a loan if the writer’s life depended on it? Would he not at least advance him the money for a new laptop? Would a published author really take suggestions from someone he hired to type for him? Would an author risk having his work recorded on a source that could not be saved on a hard drive or disc? Sadly, the filmmakers never intended for anyone to ask such simple, logical questions, which spoil any hope of enjoying the film.
Besides the many illogical plot devices, “Alex & Emma” does not work for other reasons. The film is not funny, and neither is the novel being written, though Alex does describe the book as a comedy. The scenes from the novel are more interesting than the story of Alex and Emma, but that’s not necessarily a compliment.
Kate Hudson is always charming, but here she is too reserved. Luke Wilson is not an adequate love interest for her. There is no chemistry between the two of them. If the film is neither funny nor romantic, how can it possibly succeed as a romantic comedy? The answer is simply that it does not succeed.
It is hard for a film to portray the art of writing. Perhaps Alex is not supposed to be a great author. He seems like he is writing for a romance novel company. The process of writing the book here seems neither realistic, nor is it played as a spoof. “Finding Forrester” does a good job of depicting the process of writing. “Bullets Over Broadway,” in which director Rob Reiner had a small acting part, is a gem of a comedy about the creative process of writing. What a shame that Reiner did not learn from master director Woody Allen when they worked together on “Bullets.”
Usually, when a film is really bad, one can spot at least some potential for what the film might have been. With “Alex & Emma,” it is hard to imagine the film working at all. Toward the end of the movie, Alex makes a comment about something that cost him a lot of money. Considering that most of the money he made from the sale of his book was supposed to go to the loan sharks and to Emma for her typing, many in the audience may wonder where he got the extra cash.
When that is what one is thinking about at the end of a romantic comedy, the film has failed.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and some language
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Jeremy Leven, Adam Scheinman, Andrew Scheinman and Rob Reiner
Cast: Alex Sheldon: Luke Wilson; Emma Dinsmore: Kate Hudson; Wirschafter: Rob Reiner; John Shaw: David Paymer; Polina Delacroix: Sophie Marceau.