Making the Grades
"What's it all about, Alfie?" swoons Burt Bacharach's title song for this 1966 movie.
Played by Michael Caine, Alfie is the king of the one-night-stand. Swinging in 60's London, the young and good-looking chap has his pick of any "bird" he sees. As he talks directly into the camera (his accent combined with it's accompanying colloquialisms forced me to resort to using the DVD's subtitles), Alfie confides his rational to the audience.
You see, all he is trying to do is make everybody happy. He fools around with a married woman because (in Alfie's words) having something going on the side helps the poor creature laugh again. He sleeps with another because she has a bit of a mustache, and a bloke like him can help her forget her personal flaws. He even keeps one back at his flat because she's not very bright, yet she knows her place - and the cooking and cleaning she does is a bit of an asset.
Although it is impossible to accept his gallant excuses, there is one point on which I must concede: None of these women are terribly smart. In fact, as a viewer, it is hard to believe any female would spend more than one night with this egocentric cad who freely expresses his noncommittal attitude. Breaking away from every relationship as soon as any signs of emotional bonding appear, Alfie takes the philosophy of love'em and leave'em to a new low.
"I don't mean to hurt anyone," he explains.
"But you do!" insists one of his more insightful acquaintances.
As a result of his pleasure seeking, the playboy breaks hearts, fathers a child, and becomes an accomplice in an illegal abortion. However, even the discovery of a serious illness isn't enough to change his womanizing ways. Alfie continues to keep himself aloof from (or out-rightly ignore) the agony he causes as he ruins the lives of all around him.
Although it received a PG rating and the sexual exploits are alluded to more than shown, Alfie is not a family movie. The script attempts to expose the harsh realities of his actions, however I still question if even the oldest teen would benefit from the painful experience of watching his destructive behavior.
At the end of the movie, this unsympathetic character confesses one of the consequences of his lifestyle has been the loss of his peace of mind. However, that's not enough to convince me Alfie understands what it's all about.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Alfie (1966).
Alfie’s philosophy of looking out for himself first, is intended to keep him from feeling any disappointment or sorrow. Why does his behavior have the entirely opposite effect? How do his selfish choices impact others? Is it really possible to make decisions that won’t hurt anyone but yourself?
The abortionist asks Alfie and the married woman he has gotten pregnant if they have considered their decision carefully, because once the procedure has been performed there is no way to change their minds. Was this really the only solution to their problematic situation? If they do manage to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation of their circumstances, will they be able to remove all the consequences of this guilty secret?