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Author Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) owes $100,000 to Cuban gamblers who have threatened to kill him if the debt is not settled in 30 days. Alex's only hope of raising the money is to write a novel...fast. He hires stenographer Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) to help him and her outspoken views begin to have an affect on the historical romance he is hurriedly writing. As the plot of the book changes, both Alex and Emma are transported into its pages as various characters. In the present, their initial bickering gives way to mutual respect and they slowly fall in love.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
What might have looked like a good idea on paper goes seriously awry in the screen treatment of this clunker from writer Jeremy Leven and director Rob Reiner. Lifting its basic idea from an episode in the life of Dostoyevsky - who wrote his novel The Gambler in 30 days to settle a debt - Alex and Emma is a reasonable enough romance in the contemporary scenes but falls embarrassingly short in the extended fantasy sequences that give life to the novel Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) is writing. The big problem here is that Alex's is writing is awful to begin with and gets even worse when his stenographer/muse Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) starts making editorial suggestions.

The film relies heavily on the juxtaposition of Alex and Emma's creative process with dramatisations of the work in progress to supposedly create a whimsical air of romance. Unfortunately, the quality of Alex and Emma's plotline and prose is so shoddy it's very hard to warm to them.

The dull story they concoct takes place in 1924 and finds Wilson playing tutor Adam Shipley, who can't decide if his heart belongs to his wealthy French employer Polina (Sophie Marceau) or Polina's poor-but-good hearted American Au Pair Emma (Hudson). As the story is altered in Alex's fashionably run-down writer's pad, Hudson gets to play Swedish, German and Spanish variations on Emma - all of which display her flair for comedy but do nothing to make the tiresome tome any more appealing.

It's a shame to see Hudson and Wilson wasted on such sub-standard material. Although they do manage a few nice moments in the modern-day scenes there's not much they or Rob Reiner (who also plays Alex's publisher Wirschafter) can do to save a self-satisfied script that is dead on arrival and barely splutters to life in the following 96 minutes. Without the 1924 scenes we'd be left with an innocuous love story that would fit comfortably into a TV hour. As it stands we're forced to endure deadly dull interludes that inspire nothing more than disbelief at the thought of Alex picking up a $125,000 cheque for flinging together such sub-Mills and Boon dross.

Special features on the DVD include an audio commentary by director Rob Reiner and actor Luke Wilson and the theatrical trailer.

Published January 15, 2004

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CAST: Luke Wilson, Chino XL, Lobo Sebastian, Rob Reiner, Kate Hudson, Paul Wilson, David Paymer, Sophie Marceau

DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner

SCRIPT: Jeremy Leven

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.95:1; dolby 5.1; subtitles for the hearing impaired

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 15, 2004

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