Cultural critic David Kepesh finds his life -- which he indicates is a state of "emancipated manhood" -- thrown into tragic disarray by Consuela Castillo, a well-mannered student who awakens a sense of sexual possessiveness in her teacher.
David Kepesh is growing old. He's a professor of literature, a student of American hedonism, and an amateur musician and photographer. When he finds a student attractive, Consuela, a 24-year-old Cuban, he sets out to seduce her. Along the way, he swims in deeper feelings, maybe he's drowning. She presses him to sort out what he wants from her, and a relationship develops. They talk of traveling. He confides in his friend, George, a poet long-married, who advises David to grow up and grow old. She invites him to meet her family. His own son, from a long-ended marriage, confronts him. Is the elegy for lost relationships, lost possibilities, beauty and time passing, or failure of nerve? Written by
"Elegy" is the fifth movie Ben Kingsley has done this year and its been so good to see him back in form the last couple years cause I honestly thought that doing "Bloodrayne" was his way of saying "I'm losing my mind." Nicholas Meyer wrote the movie from a novel by Phillip Roth. The last time Meyer adapted something from Roth we got Anthony Hopkins playing a black guy in "The Human Stain", and that was just one of many problems that that movie had. "Elegy" was directed by Isabel Coixet though, who I really only know from the short film "Bastille", one of a group of films that can be found in the all-around beautiful love letter to Paris film, "Paris J'Taime." She seems well-suited for this love story, as do Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. Only the question is, can they all make a better movie than "The Human Stain"? Kingsley plays cultural critic David Kepesh, a man who spent most of the 60's sexual revolution unfortunately married. Now a divorced college professor, Kepesh has devoted much of his after graduation activities to hitting on former students, his most recent conquest being Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz), a hard working woman from a Cuban family. Just Consuela awakens a sense of passion in him and soon he is thrown into a confusing situation where he jealously wants to have her for his own but his fear of commitment to another woman has him pushing her back when she wants to get closer.
At times funny and heartbreakingly moving, this movie mostly just makes you think how lazy most men are when it comes to relationships. I found it interesting how even a cultural critic, a man who spends his life looking for deeper meaning in everything, can look at a woman and only see a sex toy. That what a woman holds inside is a short substitute for what she holds outside. David being self-conscious about his age adds another dimension, backing up that long held belief by men that women are also more concerned with what's on the outside as well. It's all material that has been worked over before in countless romances and the ending relies on that old romantic cliché of throwing in a fatal disease that threatens the life of one of the characters but in general director Isabel Coixet creates a moving, heartfelt love story complete with sensual sex scenes, beautiful piano-background music and some really nice (and tasteful) shots of Penelope Cruz's boobs and ass.
There is also some really excellent acting going on in this movie. Kingsley charges into his role like a lion, showing David's brashness in preying on the young girls he so dearly missed out on during his married youth, but he also brings regret, vulnerability, and cluelessness to David that make him worthy of sympathy. And Penelope Cruz couldn't be better as his above-age Lolita, bringing a soft-spoken sexiness and warmth to a woman trying mightily to disarm a man primarily drawn to women as play things. And where has Dennis Hopper been? This is one of his best performances in a long time, playing a man whose gone through the wringer a couple times with relationships himself who now offers up his own wisdom, coupled with some comic relief as well. Patricia Clarkson does what she can in a small role as an on-again off-again sex buddy for David. She has a fantastic scene in the movie later on where she describes what life is like for older women but then unfortunately the character is never seen again.
"Elegy" doesn't simmer with romance but it's not exactly a slow-moving disaster either. It offers up some food for thought and it's artfully created while Kingsley, Cruz, and Hopper each supply fantastic performances. If you're interested in a May-December romance, this one fits the bill just fine for the time being.
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