Who's In It: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Luis Guzman, Geraldine James, Nick Nolte
The Basics: To answer your question, YES Arthur (Brand) is an alcoholic in this retooled version of the 1981 film. All the story beats are the same--Arthur is filthy rich, has no ambitions or motivation to make a mark on the world, drinks like a fish, and has to marry a rich woman he doesn't love (Garner) instead of his monetarily challenged soulmate (Gerwig). The original had all the elements of Screenwriting 101 (conflict, raised stakes, ticking clocks) but somehow was as loose as the cap on Arthur's scotch bottle. The new one tries to ratchet everything up but still doesn't change much.
What's The Deal: I walked into this refusing to compare this to the original. Although it's next to impossible to suffer from purposeful amnesia, from now on I am going to completely forget an original ever existed and just see if a movie works on its own (yes studios, you're welcome). So here is what I ascertained from this brand new film that I have never seen before: I've seen it before. Brand provides a measured amount of laughs and works well with Mirren, but ultimately, the movie is as hollow as his playboy lifestyle. Every character is a familiar archetype and the jokes are centered on Warner Bros-affiliated nostalgia. Could it be that we just don't know what to do with British talent? Ricky Gervais comes to mind as another hilarious actor from across the pond who keeps missing at the box office.
Listen To The Movie: A couple of times, Arthur's dialogue will tell you exactly what the studio is trying to make you believe. He explains to his poor love interest (who is like us in real life) that money is made to "create joy and excitement" (like this remake). Greta Gerwig, while eating her generic Spaghetti-Os, wasn't convinced, and neither am I. Although money can make things easier, it's not necessary if your heart is in the right place. The same applies to cinema. I enjoy shiny blockbusters, but have seen plenty of affecting, memorable movies done for little more than the cost of a Ford Taurus. This movie hits somewhere in the middle for me, not being glamorous and sparkly enough to get me excited, and not having enough emotional pull to really engage me.
Where The Heart Is: I loved watching Gerwig and Brand together onscreen. At night, they share a working-class dinner at her house, and that's when their electricity gets crackling. Brand finally drops his "Is he drunk or did he get dropped on his head as a child?" tone of voice and lets his specific brand of charm shine though, giving strong motivation for this very important plot point. I am infinitely glad to see more of Gerwig on the big screen just in general, because when I first saw her in House of the Devil and Greenberg, I remember being very taken with her. Unfortunately, every talented actor in this movie deserved a little more to sink their teeth into, but it's not completely without nice moments.