A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has sexual references and situations, including a comic but graphic sexual encounter with partial nudity that is strong for a PG-13. Characters have sex without any meaningful commitment. Characters drink and use strong language. There is peril and violence in a comic context but constituting a genuine threat and a death (from natural causes) that is played for grisly humor.
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What's the story?
Alex (Luke Wilson) is a successful novelist who is into some very mean loan sharks for $100,000 in gambling debts. He has just 30 days to get them the money, and the only way to do that is to complete his novel and get the rest of the advance from the publisher. The problem is that he has not started. He hires a stenographer named Emma (Kate Hudson) so he can dictate the entire novel to her. As he tells her the story of a love triangle set in the 1920s (with characters also played by Hudson and Wilson), the story in the book both reflects and influences the relationship between the writer who is telling the story and the woman who is listening and writing it down.
Is it any good?
ALEX AND EMMA gives us two stories, neither especially romantic nor comic. Hudson is so irresistibly charming that it is easy to forget how tepid and uninspired this movie is. It is always a delight to see Hudson's saucer-eyed smile and impeccable timing, but it would be just as entertaining to watch a 90-minute documentary of Hudson shopping for groceries. Luke Wilson is believably seedy but not a believable leading man. Alex tells Emma that he does not need to know where his story is going because the characters will take over. This was probably wishful thinking on the part of the four screenwriters behind this movie (including director Rob Reiner), because its first big problem is that the story -- in fact, both stories -- just keep stalling.
All romantic comedies have a fairy tale quality, so an element of fantasy is not just expected, but welcome. And it is not only acceptable in fairy tales for people to behave foolishly or to fail to ask simple questions; it feels psychologically true as a metaphor for the irrationality of falling in love. But this movie topples from fantasy to carelessness, abandoning the most basic elements of reasonableness in a way that is just sloppy. If Reiner wants to appear as the publisher-cum-fairy-godfather, that's fine. But absent some sort of magic wand, it is preposterous to the point of lack of respect for the audience to expect us to go along with the movie's set-up, from Alex's on-again-off-again gambling problem, writer's block, and romantic entanglements to the basic facts of how writers, editors, and publishers operate.
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