Michael Caine finds a third act.
The author’s second autobiographical work (What’s It All About?, 1992) revisits familiar territory—childhood poverty, the deprivations of World War II, faltering first steps in show business before signature roles in The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966) made him an international film star—but his warm, wry delivery keeps the material interesting, even though many of the anecdotes have a distinctly practiced feel. Caine devotes much space to his latter-day, post–leading man film career, a clear source of pride and delight for the actor who presumed, after a fallow period, that his career was effectively over in the early ’90s. The years since have found Caine doing acclaimed work in such worthy projects as The Cider House Rules (1999), The Prestige (2006), the Christopher Nolan Batman films and Inception (2010). The author is endearing in his appreciation of this unexpected phase of his career, but a little more analysis of the films, his acting process and insights into the industry would have been welcome. Instead, Caine is largely content to relate amusing stories or chivalrously praise co-stars such as Sandra Bullock. Some of the material is truly compelling—especially the disarming glimpses of the likes of Laurence Olivier and Steve Martin—but the general weightlessness of Caine’s reminiscences are a bit frustrating for the movie buff eager to plumb the memory of one of the cinema’s most distinctive stars. The author goes on at length about family crises, military experiences, his career as a restaurateur, old friendships and the like. One personal story that does resonate is Caine’s shocking late-in-life discovery of an adult half brother, institutionalized and suffering from severe brain damage, whose existence had been concealed by the author’s mother until her death. In Caine’s telling, the story would suit a small, serious film, with a juicy role for an older English actor of demonstrated range and power.
Charming but slight reminiscences of a cinematic icon.