Cute, safe and very, very boring.
Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) is one of the most adorable and talented actresses onscreen today. So why does Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally), one of the most inspired directors in Hollywood today, put this wonderful woman in this snoozer of a film? Worse, why does he partner her with Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde), who’s so low-key he’s practically lying catatonic under the piano?
The story, if you can call it that, is a tepid variation on the theme of Adaptation, the recent Nicholas Cage/Meryl Streep romantic comedy that everybody liked but me. A writer has writer’s block (well, ain’t that original). This particular author, Alex, is a novelist, who’s already had one hit, but his publisher won’t give him a $125,000 advance until he hands in his second book. Meanwhile, nasty and very muscular Hispanic mobsters (Chino Xl, Barrio Wars; and Lobo Sebastian, Ghosts of Wars) are going to drop him head-first off his balcony if he doesn’t pay up his $100,000 gambling debt. Alex has 30 days to write the book but he remains muse-less, with nary a full sentence on his computer screen. So he hires a stenographer in the hopes he can dictate his precious words.
So in walks Emma, (Hudson), stenographer extraordinaire, and a woman who excels in being, as Alex complains, extremely “forthcoming” (meaning that she can’t control herself from speaking her truth when Alex dictates drivel). So is created the requisite opposite sides of the fence for the young lovers — he blathers and she’s authentic. The story he’s writing is a young man’s search for true love, set in the 1920s, Great Gatsby style. So the movie goes back and forth between the colorless present and the pretty-but-absurd make-believe past. This gives Hudson lots of chances to use different accents (Meryl, honey, look out) and wear beautiful vintage outfits. Of course, Alex and Emma eventually fall in bed. But they don’t have anywhere near enough banter between them to keep anybody in the audience from wishing they could run home to catch old Tracey-and-Hepburn movies on late-night TV.
Other than Hudson (who is so magnetic, you can’t take your eyes off her, even if she’s putting you to sleep), there are two actors who could steal the show if anybody gave them a decent script. The pair of Hispanic bad guys — who also double as Flamenco Dancers in the 1920s segments — are so dynamic, they should be given starring roles in their own movie.
Claustrophobically shot in a dingy bachelor pad where the lazy, self-absorbed writer doesn’t even cook dinner for the poor woman who’s slaving away all day on his bad novel, Alex and Emma fails even to offer nice scenery to recommend it. Catch this dud on video if you must, but don’t bother seeing it in the theater. Big screen material it ain’t.
– reviewed by Marci Miller