When Alex met Emma

In Rob Reiner's latest, a writer falls in love

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Reading and writing aren't exactly action-packed activities. This makes them hard subjects for the silver screen, especially in an age when movies are expected to move as much as possible.

To his credit, Rob Reiner accepts this challenge in "Alex & Emma," his latest romantic comedy. The hero is an author who has exactly one month to write a new novel - from start to finish, so he can collect his publisher's check and pay off the loan sharks he owes.

The heroine is the stenographer he hires to speed up the writing process.

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She's a feisty young woman who can't help putting in her two cents when she thinks the plot is going wrong, but isn't immune to mistakes like (ouch!) dropping a crucial part of the manuscript into a muddy puddle on her way home to type it up.

I hate to give away the ending, but yes, they fall in love. As if you wouldn't have guessed.

Much of the movie takes place in Alex's dusty apartment as he and his amanuensis banter, bicker, and gradually create a polished piece of prose.

What prevents it from seeming static and claustrophobic is the screenplay's willingness to jump between the characters' "real life" and the world of the novel they're writing - set in the 1920s and populated by wealthy women, penniless tutors, self-important suitors, and other archetypes of middlebrow fiction.

Also fun to watch are stars Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson as they play a gallery of characters in both of the movie's time periods. Both actors turn in varied, witty performances without showing off or camping it up.

"Alex & Emma" isn't nearly as clever as Reiner's classic "Misery," a very different look at a male writer and his female companion. But it's diverting fun.

Rated PG-13; contains vulgar humor.

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