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Erotic, touching and beautiful
seawalker17 August 2008
Everybody is allowed to do a job just for the money, I know that I do, but when it comes to the acting profession, I irrationally think that I expect a little bit more from our finest thespians. I don't know why. I just do. Take, for example, the actor Ben Kingsley.

Ben Kingsley sometimes annoys the hell out of me. He is one of the best actors in the world, but sometimes plys his trade in the likes of films like "Thunderbirds", "A Sound Of Thunder" and "The Love Guru". Such a waste. Such a shame. Thank God he occasionally realises how good he is and signs up for a movie as sublime as "Elegy".

"Elegy" is a great movie. Ben Kingsley is supreme in it. He plays David Kapesh, an expat British teacher and writer. Kapesh is selfish. He is a player and a commitment phobe, who takes and drops lovers at the drop of a hat. That is until he meets Penelope Cruz's Consuela Castillo, with whom he begins a pretty standard affair and, against all expectations, and much to his dismay, falls in love with her.

"Elegy" has some seriously good, sure footed performances. Ben Kingsley is on Oscar worthy form. It is as different, but as good a performance, as his Oscar nominated turns in "Sexy Beast" and "House Of Sand And Fog". Patrica Clarkson, as Kapesh's long standing mistress, defines hurt and betrayal, Penelope Cruz completely puts word to the lie of one daft critic who said that she simply cannot act in the English language, but the surprise here is Dennis Hopper: His performance as Kapesh's best friend is light years away from the eye rolling villain that he normally portrays to make a crust.

"Elegy" is erotic, touching and beautiful. I think that it is a cracking movie and deserves a bigger audience.
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A Monumental Cruz
dboyleukgroup19 September 2008
Perhaps the most moving aspect of this very moving adaptation of Philip Roth's "The Dying Animal" is Penelope Cruz's extraordinary performance. Ben Kingsly is also superb but we're kind of used to see him explore different universes with absolute ease. From "Ghandi" to "Sexy Beast" Penelope Cruz is a whole other story. From "Volver" to "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" to "Elegy" in rapid succession have transformed this Spanish beauty into one of the best actresses of her generation. She gets under your skin and transmits the emotional journey of her characters with a powerful strength that lasts and lingers. The truth she carries is all consuming and makes the experience totally unforgettable. Her performance alone makes "Elegy" a must see.
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The Biggest Surprise in a Man's Life Is Old Age
Claudio Carvalho26 March 2009
In Manhattan, the middle-aged writer, art critic and professor and aspirant piano player and photographer David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) questions that his age does not affect his sex drive and recalls words of Bette Davis ("Old age is not for sissies") and Tostoi ("The biggest surprise in a man's life is old age"). Despite of his great culture, the intellectual David is a man that has grown old but never grown up, and he is unable to last a relationship, including with his oncologist son Kenneth Kepesh (Peter Sarsgaard). The exceptions are his old poet friend and confident George O'Hearn (Dennis Hopper) and the independent businesswoman Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson), with whom he has an affair for more than twenty years. When he meets the elegant, educated and gorgeous Cuban student Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz) in his literature class, he feels a great sexual attraction for her and seduces her in the end of the period. They have a love affair for one and half years, but David is always insecure being thirty and something years older than the student. When Consuela forces David to come to her graduation party and meet her family and friends, he takes a decision that affects their relationship forever.

The Spanish Isabel Coixet is certainly one of the most sensitive directors of the cinema industry. "My Life without Me" and "The Secret Life of Words" are among the most beautiful, touching and heartbreaking movies I have ever seen. "Elegy" is another wonderful movie of this awesome director that deals with another real theme, the aging of men, which could be difficult for a female director to understand and correctly disclose on the screen. However, the romance works mainly because the lead male role seems to be tailored for Sir Ben Kingsley (it could be Sean Connery a couple of years ago). I can not imagine any other actor that could personify David Kepesh as portrayed in the story. Further, Penélope Cruz deserved the Oscar for her performance, with a more realistic character than in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". The Academy wrote right through wrong performances. She is incredibly gorgeous in the role of Consuela Castillo. The always excellent Patricia Clarkson, the irregular Dennis Hopper and the "disappeared" Peter Sarsgaard have also memorable performances in this outstanding romance. The cinematography and the music score complete this beautiful work of art. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Fatal" ("Fatal")
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"Old age is not for sissies", said Bette Davis...
Benedict_Cumberbatch29 September 2008
... and David Kepesh (Sir Ben Kingsley) knows it, as he quotes her in the beginning of "Elegy". Kepesh is no sissy, but old age isn't for him either. He's a professor who's had a "friendship with benefits" with a woman (Patricia Clarkson) for twenty years, as he begins a torrid affair with the beautiful Consuela (Penélope Cruz), thirty years younger than him. Consuela and David fall in love with each other, but harder than finding the right person is the fear of losing them, and they will find some obstacles to their relationship.

This is an adult film about love, fear of commitment/loss, and death. Isabel Coixet proves again to be the most exciting name to come from Spain since Pedro Almodóvar – after "My Life Without Me", "The Secret Life of Words" and her segment "Bastille" from "Paris, je t'Aime", she delivers another mature, sensitive, and very peculiar film (her next project, "Map of Sounds of Tokyo", looks very promising as well). Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson are exceptional as usual; Dennis Hopper, as Kingsley's best friend, gives his best performance in a long time (he has a fantastic scene with Kingsley and Deborah Harry, who plays his wife). Peter Sarsgaard is also pretty good as Kingsley's son, and although Cruz doesn't shine as much as in "Non Ti Muovere", "Volver" or "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", she fits the role and makes you believe any man would be easily infatuated and obsessed with her.

The ending might seem a little melodramatic at first, but it's both poignant and adequate. Although not a perfect film, "Elegy" is easily one of the most poetic, rewarding experiences you'll have this year. Don't miss it. 9/10.
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Take a look inside
C-Younkin29 August 2008
"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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A female review of this stunning movie
info-681612 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In Elergy I see many reviewers have overlooked what this movie really speaks of, and by that also the intent of the book and writer Phillip Roth. After reading every review here I only noticed one or two that were referring in part to what I felt this film was truly about.

Ben Kingsley gives one of his best performances. Every move, every look is carefully chosen to portray the depth of emotion. It did that. I have never been a fan of Penelope Cruz, yet she captivated me. Why? Her beauty. I think what was missed and I see others question her portrayal as sexism, is that it went far deeper. Kinglsley when questioned by his friend if he ever saw beyond her "beauty" did not give a direct answer. She was beautiful the film was shot to make her heart wrenchingly beautiful but I also perceived that in every way he looked at her it was not simply this beauty.

He was not a man that had not ever met a beautiful woman, or young student. This was not a first. To say the attraction was sexist is to simplify what occurred. For the first time in his life, he did not know what to do. He fell in love and it was far more than with just the way she looked. The film used subtle nuances, such as him watching her as she slept, or after she left picking up her hairbrush and holding it. It was easy to see that for a man who had, had many young beautiful women she was different. I read others complaining it did not show her intelligence even though we were told she was cultivated and brilliant. It was not necessary to depict that. Why do I say that? It is clear that while she was beautiful, it was everything she did. Every time she spoke or moved. He repeats later as does she that each remembers every second in total clarity. This is a story showing one thing, the complexity of the human relationship. The complexity of love.

Torn between wanting to possess her completely and to never let her leave his side; he is conversely fighting inner turmoil. What he never had even considered possible nor comprehended the depth of its impact on his life, changed his life forever. In a internal fight with conviction that she will leave him and the age difference means one day she will wake up and decide to go, in fear from the way she makes him feel. There is no sexism here this is a story of a man who falls in love and is struggling to manage the balance between the joy of this and the anxieties.

In the end we see him sabotage the relationship. This is not as some may think in the moments when he followed her in sexual jealousy; that was a man trying to make sense of why he felt this way when living nearly his entire life no one and nothing ever touched him so deeply. The sabotage is his doubt in been able to keep her happy, his fear of losing her, his fears that it can not last, and so he ends it by at a moment when she needs him to show her his love he lets her down. The pathos is so strong. As he parks his car and calls her to say hes broken down. The internal fight rages and he has lost. He has given away the only thing he has ever loved, due to fear.

He spends the next 2 years trying to forget but as he says himself who am I fooling, it has changed me forever. When she returns in an ending that they wanted to cut but Roth refused. Cruz returns and she has breast cancer. She asks him to photograph her. Says no one ever loved her body like he did, he says he can't believe that. Yet we know it is true, he loves her so deeply that no one else could. It is heart wrenching as he photographs her topless. After the surgery he is there when she wakes his son having found when she was been operated on. She lied about the dates.. why? I believe it was a test would he be there this time. As the film ends she says they took her breast and now she has lost her beauty and this part speaks to all I have said above, he kisses her and holds her.

In conclusion, this film if you have the depth to absorb it is heart rending. It speaks to each of us whom have lived long enough to have begun to realize the intricacies of our hearts and minds. How our pasts influence who we are and how we behave. Truly though it is a love story and love is perhaps the most complex of emotions. It is a film to watch carefully to study each movement and be caught up in the honest view of two peoples relationship with one another. It is hard to watch and not be touched or brought to tears. Overall the acting was superb, cinematography, and direction too. I think this will remain an underrated film that contains deeper meanings that many will miss, it will however remain one that I will not forget anytime soon.

As others have said, this film will appeal more to the European audience.
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many may struggle to appreciate the heights to which this valiant film aspires
Chris_Docker4 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Elegy comes with sophisticated cultural ambiance. Based on a novella by Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Roth. A trailer peppered with interesting academic speculation. A score dominated by Bach, Beethoven and Satie, tastefully kept up to date with interludes of salsa or the eclectic Madeline Peyroux's singing Cohen's masterpiece, Dance Me to the End of Love. Gravitas imparted by Ben Kingsley as an established professor of literary criticism and his colleague (a remarkably suave) Dennis Hopper, award-winning poet. Elegy announces its colours by appealing to the culturally elite. Or at least those that can tell their War and Peace from Kelly's Heroes.

But translating the good and the great of literary acclaim into two hours of watchable cinema is necessarily a task of abbreviation, as director Coixet and screenwriter Meyer know too well, having previously worked together on The Human Stain. Pages of philosophical rumination rarely transcribe into pithy dialogue, circumscribed voice-overs, or the more visceral drama of visual image. Roth fans may come to altogether different conclusions based on subtexts gleaned from the novella. Even the rest of us may form radically different opinions. Each of us, as Kingsley's character would say, brings our own self to any work of art. We see it through our own eyes, situation, prejudices and projections, and it lives on well beyond our thoughts on it.

Do you dislike objectivisation of women in film? Penelope Cruz, the charming young student who comes into Kingsley's orbit, is relentlessly objectivised in the first two thirds of the movie. So much so that you may have formed a judgement by the time that objectivisation is finally questioned and the person behind the dazzling smile and art-book eyes revealed. Or are you perhaps a fifty-something year old single male? If so, you may feel more indulgent towards Kingsley's obsession and the film's emotional self-analysis. Or do you feel the more immediate revulsion for middle-aged teacher seducing pretty young student? Are you an art lover perhaps? Maybe picking up on the questions of how we perceive art, do we really perceive it truly at all (and maybe relate that to how people perceive each other). Only the most liberal viewer might ask if there can be any true love across the age divide, a true meeting of minds. And then apply those questions (and the underlying real perception of another human being) to the question of love when no age difference forces them uppermost.

The theme of professor-student illicit liaison is well-worn. So much so that it barely deserves a whole movie to itself. What raises Elegy above the bar is the seriousness with which it addresses its subject. Kingsley's character tries to stay a step ahead of the stereotype and what he perceives as inevitable failure, analysing it with his (married but unfaithful) friend Hopper. Belief in personal freedom is at odds with long-term meaningful commitment. After initially trying to dissuade him, Hopper comes out with an insightful key that can apply to other situations as well as Kingsley's. "Beautiful women are invisible . . . we're blocked by the beauty barrier." Like approaching a work of art, meeting another person is a case of seeing what we see (or want to see) in them. The Muse. The Blonde. (Or in reverse, The Cultural Man, the Tough Guy, the Protector, the Mentor.) Even before we add gender stereotypes. We see the sexualised side of a person we are interested in – or at least not a gender-neutral persona. Roth's point is that when we meet someone who is particularly beautiful or handsome, then it can become much harder to connect to the person underneath. Age differences emphasises this (Kingsley 'worships' her beauty). And the viewer is led by the nose to see her (objectivised) as he sees her. As "a work of art." As something beyond reach (emotionally in the long term, if not sexually). She is beautiful. She dresses well. She looks good naked. She's intelligent and attentive, with a sense of artistic appreciation. And she has a disarming directness and sincerity.

Kingsley also has an on-off sexual partner, a glamorous business woman closer to his own age (played by Patricia Clarkson). They seem well-suited. But it is late on into the film that we see that they too had only gone as far as the image they wanted of each other. "Is this our first real conversation?" she asks him. Then there is his friend Hopper. A friendship for which he only just manages the sense of 'elegy', the heartfelt sense of regret that has the power to correct and connect – if only there is a second chance.

And what of Kingsley's son (Peter Sarsgaard)? His appearance highlights one of the greatest weaknesses of the film. Kenny bursts onto the scene to tell his father that he has been having an affair – shock, horror! Kingsley, polite and fatherly, is really far too involved in his own dilemma to care that much. It reminds us that we have spent far too long angsting over who he is playing the double-backed beast with (a literary allusion which is given second-hand accuracy in the film, which attributes it to Shakespeare, who of course stole it from Rabelais). Unless we are voyeuristic, the question of who-is-shagging-who is one of the most uninteresting story lines for any film. But the emotions can hold some value if well addressed. Yet they are not here addressed with the depth of a novel. We have to make several additions ourselves, analysing the throwaway words of wisdom. The interchanges with Hopper have been underused. Too many viewers will have been lost gazing at Cruz's breasts. And the life-changing event that puts her and Kingsley on a deeper level is due to external circumstance rather than any astute self-analysis.

Elegy deserves respect for the heights it aspires to. But Coixet and Meyer need to make Roth more accessible to achieve the recognition for which they so yearn.
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adaptation of the Roth novella The Dying Animal.
daniel weinstock18 April 2008
This is the first time that Roth has been successfully transferred to the screen. An uncompromising movie for grownups with two exquisite central performances, and some very nice supporting turns by Clarkson, Hopper and Sarsgaard. What impressed me about this movie is that it dares to be slow, dark, almost meditative. Roth's short book does not have much plot to it, so that adapting it to the screen runs more risks than would be the case for one of his more developed novels. But the director and screenwriter make a virtue of the book's spare narrative elements. It takes its time studying faces, glances and shadows. I will be happy if I see another movie half as good this year.
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stensson18 November 2008
OK. Professor starts an affair with one of his students. You may have prejudices about that. Not about this kind of affairs, but about this kind of movies.

But it's a story about aging and jealousy and so far touching. The professor goes through hell, including all objections he's supposed to have about his own behavior in this certainly true love. A love which is regarded as ridiculous. Most so by himself.

Cruz and Kingsley are great as you could expect, but the greatest performance is delivered by Dennis Hopper. A certain amount of sentimentality is a little disturbing, but this film obviously takes aging as an emotional problem seriously.
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A Moving Ben Kingsley Conduit Stolen By Penelope Cruz
jzappa21 October 2008
Ben Kingsley, who is capable of playing practically any role, seems to be remarkable at playing men who are very smart but their thoughts are a lot less than pure most of the time. Elegy is a film that could easily have been written with him in mind, though by the time it's over, Penelope Cruz has stolen away with it, and changed Kingsley's character in the progression. It's properly made.

Kingsley seems to be just about the entire movie as a self-seeking book critic. He was married in the past, and has a well-to-do son. He got divorced years ago and has a sex pal relationship with another woman who he sees rarely, played by Patricia Clarkson, who I can totally see having the capability for no-strings occasional liaisons. He is frequently attracted to his female students, and sometimes has sex with some of them. Still, to steer clear of trouble, he always waits until they graduate. With one of these women, Penelope Cruz's character, a more profound relationship grows.

But Kingsley has never matured in this manner. He is preoccupied with jealousy, certain that she is seeing someone else, someone younger, more handsome and virile. He even shows up at a dance he knows she's attending, to check up on her. His doubt frustrates and deters her, because she cannot put up with not being trusted.

When the time comes, the movie makes a dramatic bend which surrounds all the deepest bona fide feelings of the story. And in these scenes, Cruz is peacefully compelling and dreadfully real. You come to appreciate why the director, Isabel Coixet, cast Cruz rather than a younger, authentically college-age actress. An actress necessitates wisdom and the familiarity of time to play these scenes, and Cruz must have both, especially now that I'm seeing her shortly after her incredible performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

That this nuanced drama with erudite cultural ambiance is not merely a self-indulgent male writer's wet dream about the horny scoundrel and the exquisite and charming Venus is a relief. That it sees Manhattan plainly as a location benefits this story because it is a place where we suppose things like this are liable to take place, not like the typical burgh where we live. Then there is Dennis Hopper as the old comrade with whom Kingsley has coffee and plays racquetball, who tries to bring wisdom to Kingsley's activities, but sees no light at the end of the tunnel. And Peter Sarsgaard as Kingsley's son, with problems of his own, and a father who has become not only a shame but an unrelated matter. But what the movie's not afraid to do is let you in on Kingsley's feelings after awhile. Who cares about all these things he should accept as responsibility when he's so immersed in love for this new, young person?
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Dignity and Sensuality: Intoxication
gradyharp20 March 2009
'When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life.'

Few American writers have been able to examine the fear and rage and desperation of aging as eloquently as Philip Roth, and as with another of his novels brought to life on the screen ('The Human Stain'), here Nicholas Meyer has beautifully adapted Roth's 'The Dying Animal' with all the visceral immediacy and poetry of the novel about the terror and compassion of May/December relationships. Isabel Coixnet has managed to guide her gifted set of actors through this story as though it were a ballet. The result is one of the more beautiful 'love stories' ever filmed.

David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley, in a performance of tremendous power and sensitivity) is an aging author, teacher and art critic, a man who has not learned the secret of lasting relationships but who retains his animal sex drive despite his passing years: he survives time's passing by a patterned assignation with Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson), an aging successful traveling business woman who drops in for sensual gratification when in town. David's closest friend is Pulitzer prize winning poet George O'Hearn (Dennis Hopper) who serves as his alter ego and as his confidant in David's problematic life.

Into David's classroom comes Consuela Castillo (the ravishingly beautiful and gifted Penélope Cruz) who gains David's focus not only for her radiant beauty but also for her intelligence. Struggling with his advanced years (David is over thirty years older than Consuela), a courtship dance begins and it is the emergence of this romance that forms the story. How Consuela alters David's behavior and his discovery of the need for connection outside of the bedroom is related as a journey through David's mind. The manner in which the transformation changes every member of the story is what makes this film so very memorable.

Kingsley is brilliant in this probing examination of the aging man's psyche, Cruz SHOULD have received her Oscar for this performance rather than the film that honored her, Clarkson continues to be one of our best actresses on the screen, Peter Sarsgaard makes a brief but important appearance, and David Hopper manages to step out of his predictable past roles and offer a character of true compassion and finesse. The film is magnificently photographed (Jean-Claude Larrieu) and the music score thankfully is almost completely devoted to the works of Erik Satie (Gnossiennes), Beethoven (Diabelli Variations), Vivaldi (cantatas with Phillipe Jaroussky) -all edited by the director Isabel Coixnet. It all works well. This is one of the finer films of 2008 and deserves a wide audience of people who love quality film-making. Grady Harp
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mr_popcorn13 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
George O'Hearn: "Beautiful women are invisible; we're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside." Charismatic professor David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) glories in the pursuit of adventurous female students but never lets any woman get too close. When gorgeous Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz) enters his classroom, however, his protective veneer dissolves. Her raven-haired beauty both captivates and unsettles him.

Even if Kepesh declares her body a perfect work of art, Consuela is more than an object of desire. She has a strong sense of herself and an emotional intensity that challenges his preconceptions. Kepesh's need for Consuela becomes an obsession, but ultimately his jealous fantasies of betrayal drive her away. Shattered, Kepesh faces up to the ravages of time, immersing himself in work and confronting the loss of old friends. Then, two years later, Consuela comes back into his life?with an urgent, desperate request that will change everything.

Elegy is an excellent film. I've been never really a fan of Ben Kingsley but I've seen him in numerous films before but I just didn't stick with his movie career. But now, with Elegy, I can say that I'm already a fan of his. Ben's performance is one for the books, it was powerful, intense and the chemistry between him and Penelope Cruz's Consuela is surprisingly amazing. The character development between the two is told in a touching, beautiful way by director Isabel Coixet and I'd like to think that what they had is more than a carnal affair. It was a romantic friendship and they were there for each other in times of dire need. Penelope Cruz gives the best performance yet whose acting slate also includes heavy set dramas like Volver and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This easily makes her one of the best actresses of her generation. Elegy is an erotic tale with a sense of beauty and brilliance. A must see.
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Ben Kingsley gives another Oscar-worthy performance
peskenaz9 June 2008
'Elegy' is a small, yet powerful film for adults. Focusing on a relationship between a well-respected college professor (Ben Kingsley) and his former student (Penelope Cruz), 'Elegy' shows the audience a multi-faceted, complex man whose past experiences with women and his own family have dampered his ability to participate in a healthy relationship with a woman he is truly infatuated with.

The film was carried by a masterful performance by Kingsley, who successfully portrayed Kepesh as a complex man with complex relationships. His desire and lust for Cruz was so emotional and real that I believed it for every second until the very end. Kingsley was able to spark empathy with the audience as a victim of numerous losses in his life: his wife, family, son, best friend, love interest (Cruz), and most importantly, it was his loss of youth that made Kepesh the man he is when we first meet him.

I truly believed his internal struggles with adapting to life as a man romantically involved with a much younger woman (30 years his junior).
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Great performances, great film
loricsw9 June 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. As someone who is not familiar with Philip Roth's works, I found the story to be interesting and moving. What really made the movie so enjoyable to me was the focus on the interpersonal relationships between David Kepesh(Ben Kingsley) and several of the supporting players. For example, some of the film's most poignant moments came in the scenes featuring Kepesh and his best friend (played by Dennis Hopper.) While these scenes did not necessarily serve to move the plot along, they painted a picture of the daily struggles Kepesh faces and also the layers of his only true friendship. In addition, it was heart-wrenching to see Kepeshs' son (Peter Sarsgaard), now a 40-something man married with children, resorting to his father for advice and consolation. We found out that Kepesh left his son and wife many years past, and while his son has never truly forgiven his father, he finds himself committing similar mistakes (adultery) that lead his father to become the flawed, relationship-challenged man he is today. These complex relationships, in addition to several others in the film, allow us to closely examine this fascinating point in the life of David Kepesh.
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jfryer-229 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie starts out promising - a professor whose career and personal life are driven by his fascination with the hedonistic side of American sexuality confronts the one thing that will put an end to his pursuits: he's getting old. Unfortunately, once the meat of the story gets going, it becomes a puppet show of superficial characters prancing out the whims of the screenwriter and director. Nothing about this movie is authentic, and as a result it's pretty difficult to pay much attention to the intended themes. A 112 minute close-up of Ben Kingsley's wrinkled face would say more about mortality and the human condition, and would say it more sincerely for that matter, not to mention more entertainingly.

The characters are eggshell thin, and mostly we have to believe what we are told about them by their screen-mates, because their own behavior makes little sense. David Kapesh is a playboy? Really? Maybe he's been charming in every other moment of his life, but during the time he spends with Consuela, and unfortunately with us, he's a bumbling jackass. His hear-to-hearts with his buddy George suggest he's incredibly insecure in the presence of a beautiful young woman, and every single encounter he has with Consuela confirms that. Is this the first time he's dated one of his students? No, says the film's back story, he's a playboy, we swear he's a playboy. Just not since he started looking like a late-career Ben Kingsley and started acting like an @$$hole I guess.

So let's just give this movie the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is and always has been a playboy – we're just not catching him on his good days. What is his special attraction to Consuela? Okay so she's young, educated, and beautiful. The first two attributes should apply to a good portion of the women he's been dating – his students, that is – and as for the third, if he's the playboy we're meant to believe he is, this should be nothing new either. I'm not saying a lady's man can't be struck dumb now and again, but we've got to have some since of why that would be the case. Instead we're just asked to accept it.

Consuela meanwhile leaves us even less in the way of authenticity and depth. First of all, that accent is sexy, don't get me wrong, but are we really supposed to believe that a well-educated 24 year-old who's been in the U.S. since she was 11 still talks like that? Her family background suggests she probably didn't spend the last decade living in a ghetto, the only excuse she would have for not speaking standard American English by now.

And why is she in love with David? He's not particularly witty, especially for a professor, and he does really annoying things like show up uninvited to spy on her while she's out with her brother and then cover it with a lame excuse. Is it because he's cultured? I have a feeling that a beautiful, smart woman like her could find a comparably sophisticated man who's within three decades of her age and who doesn't act like a total creep living in NEW YORK CITY. In fact she probably wouldn't even have to leave campus. The only reason she could possibly want him is his status, and we're meant to believe there's more to her than that. Otherwise why do we care about her? Why does David care about her? Why does she act like she wants something meaningful from him when he clearly is willing to give her a nice sexy superficial relationship with all the trimmings of a celebrity academic's lifestyle?

I could go on about the various other terrible aspects of this movie but this review is getting long and I'm tired of thinking about it. Oh wait there's one more thing that I just can't let go without mentioning: Consuela has a breast removed and not a single family member or friend is there? Why not? They must have all stayed at home when they realized how touching it would be for her to wake up from a mastectomy to find no one there to console her but a disgusting ex-boyfriend. Just one more slap in the face in a long line of scenes that insult our intelligence and artistic sensibilities alike.
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Very sweet, sad and romantic...
jean051911 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
...though somewhat unbelievable. Ben Kingsley's character falls in love/lust with his much-younger student, played by Penelope Cruz. He plays the conquering professor well, his motives are palpable and his virility and attractiveness are well portrayed. It's understandable that he attracts women, and that one ultimately falls in love with him.

I wonder if Penelope Cruz's character was meant to be a cipher; beyond her beauty, I couldn't determine what attracted him to her. It was inferred that she was intelligent, but I didn't detect anything else that would attract him so strongly. I felt the chemistry from him, not much from her.

This criticism is minor because the film was beautifully acted and filmed. In his myriad roles, Ben Kingsley plays different characters from Gandhi to Sexy Beast to a man who betrays the woman he loves, and ultimately loses. He continually exceeds expectations.
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Quite a dreary and dull affair
jt199911 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Slow. Lifeless. Joyless. Passionless. Boring. Am I leaving anything out?

Oh, where to start the post-mortem on this one? Well, one could begin with Sir Ben Kingsley. If ever there was a less-interesting, passionless performer, I've never heard of him. Good actor? Absolutely. But not for this part -- he never should have been cast. Obsessed by his young student? I don't see it. He waxes poetic about her body, then never even touches her breasts. He claims to love her... yet he seems half-asleep. Maybe it had something to do with that transorbital lobotomy a while back -- that might explain the baldness. Does he ever even SMILE at her? Does he even seem to CARE?? If you turned the sound off, and couldn't hear the lame dialogue, you might think he detested her instead. I think the only look of happiness on his face was a stupid, s**t-eating grin, when he inexplicably shows up at a dance club to observe her. And from that point on he seems so pussy-whipped that we lose all respect for him anyway.

It's almost as if Kingsley was emulating Brando in "Last Tango in Paris." But that was a different movie, about a much different relationship. For an audience to care about a movie like this, the characters have to care about each other. They at least have to appear alive. In this case, they aren't, and we don't. Where are William Holden and Kay Lenz when we need them?

And what possible reason would a beautiful creature like Penelope Cruz have for falling prey to a bald, geriatric college professor? Because he's a wise old man? Because he's on TV? Because she needs a father figure? We're never given a clue into what makes her tick -- that's the problem. It's a superficial relationship at best. One actually longs for the Jeremy Irons remake of "Lolita." And at least Clint Eastwood's "Breezy" had moments of lightness. And it had Bill Holden. This doesn't.

There's a reason we've never heard of the director: she's of the glacially paced, cinema verite, documentary/neo-realist European variety -- probably lesbian -- who considers emotion as dirty a word as characterization. Dennis Hopper almost saves the day -- he's the only alive thing in this dud -- and then he dies! What a treat for the audience. And what an ill-advised, pointless and unnecessary plot point. Who green-lighted this script? And don't try to tell me the great Nicholas Meyer actually wrote it. Meyer, of the classic "Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan" and "Time After Time"??? He must be on massive doses of Prozac these days. Or maybe he's the one who underwent the lobotomy.

And don't try to convince me this lackluster snorefest was once a Philip Roth novel. The great and hilarious Philip Roth, of "Portnoy's Complaint" and "Goodbye Columbus"????? "Dying Animal" is right. The book must have been written in his "Human Stain" period, after he lost his sense of humor. Well, at least this dead-on-arrival adaptation doesn't break the streak: a good movie has never been made from a Roth novel. And probably never will.

I'm giving two stars here, strictly in honor of Penelope Cruz's tits, which we see several times, thankfully -- though they're obviously not photographed by anyone who seems to care. And if we saw her ass just ONCE -- which we don't -- I might have given it a 3. And I'm not even going to get into the melodramatic plot twist at the end. If the director finally decided to go for some kind of drama, it was too little, too late. Nobody really cares about a tacked-on movie tragedy after two hours of monotony. All the characters could have been killed in a terrorist bombing and the audience probably wouldn't have really minded. Actually, that might have made a decent ending -- at least it would have woken people up. Or better still, kill them off in the first act, and put them out of their misery. Either way, senseless violence would have been preferable to another brain-dead, heartless, monotonous line reading (Dennis Hopper, as I say, is the one exception: he gives a funny, passionate, inspired performance).

On a technical level, there are also an incredible number of annoying, shaky, hand-held shots that serve absolutely no purpose, other than to distract. Couldn't the producer afford a tripod that day? Wait, don't tell me -- the director thought it was "art."

Welcome to European, no-talent, amateur-hour hell. Close the door on the way in. And watch the flames.
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It grabbed me by the throat
PipsHeritage28 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As soon as this movie came out here, I ran to see it! It grabbed me by the throat... I loved everything about it!: the theme, the direction, the camera-work, the editing, the score, the art direction, the superb! performances... Just not the melodramatic end, which was totally unnecessary (although it was in the book, I wonder if the director had the choice to leave it out, or if Philip Roth objected). The deep tragedy of the inability to reach the person you love só much and how one can ruin everything because of unjustified jealousy, suspicion and fear of commitment is intense enough. It breaks your heart to see that love isn't recognized, that fear, pride and ego sabotage what could have been a happy relationship... I identified with David as well as with Consuela. This movie really broke down the waterworks. It took me hours to get myself together - and I still feel wobbly.)... After I left the cinema, I immediately ran to the nearest bookstore and grabbed the last book from the shelf...
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elegiac in tone and execution,
alan fair18 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
What Coixet achieves here, with the aid of some fine individual and ensemble performances, is a mood piece that fully lives up to its title. An elegy for youth, for love, for the vibrancy of a life lived? By posing these questions but not deliberately answering them Ms. Coixet manages to explore the poetry of the quotidian, returning home to a dark flat after work, and the everyday of poetry, "beautiful women are invisible". One might argue that the setting, the academic elite of Manhattan in their tight little world, is a little too irksome but Kingsley's ability to be both everyman (late middle-aged everyman)and intellectual rings true in terms of the film's concern to discover why one might feel this sense of loss even when one still seems to have it all. Coixet's use of light and space, sometimes claustrophobic sometimes decidedly panoramic expresses the various moods of character and situation in a subtle and affective manner. That elegy implies loss, and there is this in the film, it is the relationship to loss that these fine actors are able to draw out that opens up the emotional core of this film. While so many contemporary movies treat trauma as nothing more than plot point 'Elegy' is able to suffuse its mise en scene with the elegiac mood. Let's hope the director gets more work.
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Lovely film, heavy emotionally but worth sticking with
camdentownie1325 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There are not many actors who can make you feel that they are not acting, but they are that character. Daniel Day Lewis managed it to a gold standard in There Will be Blood. And in this film Sir Ben works the same kind of magic somehow, he just seems to be the lonely intellectual he is playing. I have been lucky enough to meet this man and he is witty, engaging and anything but lonely. His performance brings out a stunning turn by Cruz and a lovely role from Hopper. I really liked this movie and I did like the twist at the end. SPOILER HERE: A reminder really that we are all dying, life is precious, age is immaterial.
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Well Done
bob-rutzel-16 June 2009
David Kepesh (Kingsley), a college professor, falls head over heels in love with one of his students, Consuela (Cruz) who is 30-years his junior.

Don't you just hate it when a movie title sends you to a dictionary? What bothered me is that Elegy is defined as a poem or song for someone who is dead according to Webster. This story is based upon a novella by Philip Roth entitled The Dying Animal. See where the movie title and book title are at odds?

Yes, someone died, but not one of the major characters, David or Consuela, and the story was not about the one who died.

We do not know why a beautiful woman, Consuela, would fall in love with David, who is 30-years older than she is. Just accept it. It happens (not to me but to others). The romance is seen like two teenagers feeling each other out (no pun intended). Actually, it's kind of nice to see this back and forth. First we have to get over the fact that David is Father Time and we do. We like him. The dialogue and the performances of Kingsley and Cruz are the winners throughout and the dialogue is simple, direct, caring, and respectful. Just like when we were teenagers back in the day and maybe that is why we don't mind this relationship. We remember.

When I first noticed that Ben Kingsley was playing the part of a womanizer, I thought the "Sexy Beast" was released again. That was a name given him as a character in one of his previous movies and I cannot recall which one. But, that was not the case here. His David was an attentive lover.

As for Penelope Cruz, I always knew she is a pretty woman, but in this movie she became one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. And, in the nude scenes that show her breasts, her beauty becomes amplified if that is possible. Nothing cheesy in here. Very well done.

Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson play vents for Kingsley's David. Everyone needs someone to talk to without reprisals. They did good as did all others in the cast.

Violence: No. Sex: Yes. Nudity: Yes. Language: Yes, some not much
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Sustaining the believability of love
macmerlin122 March 2009
Fifteen minutes into this film, I had to shut it down to cook supper for my visiting daughter. She's twelve, and is ever curious about the movie disks I may have lying around at the moment. "That's a sad little movie," I told her when she held up the Elegy disk. "It's about a two people who are supposed to be in love, but you can tell that in real life, as actors, they don't really like each other."

Later when daughter had gone back home to her mother's place, I put the disk back in and resumed the film. How wrong I had been to judge by the first fifteen minutes. Ben Kingsley brought more feeling to his role than I've ever seen him do, and Penelope Cruz -- how can I say it without exposing the huge number she registers on my Richter scale? Her performance is not just a heartquake but a magnitude 7 earthquake.

In our age of hook-up and skate away, Penelope Cruz sustains in her performances the believability of love. For the photoshoot, which we can only wish that times had permitted Sophia Loren also to do, we must thank the film's director for capturing the unreclaimable, ephemeral Penelope aboard her wave.
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It is a good movie – but read the book afterwards!
statistician_t18 October 2008
I have read the book this film is based on back in 2004 and one more time in 2006, and I still cherish it as one of the best books I have ever read. Therefore, watching this film was a sort of duty.

What I disliked was that in the first half, Professor Kepesh gets to know Consuela way too fast. He invites all his students to his home, and soon he is in the cahoots with Consuela. Of course I am aware that I'm comparing the novel to the film – but still I can't avoid that. In the novel, David Kepesh explains much about his sexual philosophy, something that could have been the basis for a much longer, more elaborated film. In the novel, there are philosophical excursions into American culture, puritanism and sexual freedom, things that in the film are rarely touched.

For this film you could even call "romantic movie" (I recommend it to lovers!), the portrayal of the unequal relationship between Kepesh and Consuela was too tame. In the novel you see and sense that Kepesh has no bounds. In sexuality and relationships, he is all but committed to somebody – he boasts his emancipation and freedom. The novel Kepesh even explores some rather unusual sexual practices with Consuela. As an avid reader of Roth's novels, I was really a bit disappointed.

Some commentators have stated that this film is misogynistic because Kepesh is shown using Consuela as his sexual tool. He isn't much interested in building trust. But in the end, the film shows Kepesh's destruction: We see him punished. We see his anguish. Philip Roth's novels argue against a hollow sexual morale which is evident in slogans like "True love waits". Sex is something good, something you are completely free to enjoy. But what Roth shows is the emotional loss that often follows when one does act selfishly and without integrity. Kepesh, a grown and experienced man who could have stood up to Consuela, tries out his sexual philosophy on the very person that is so dear to him. In German-language countries, the film is called "Elegy - the art of loving" – not without reason.

Go, watch it!
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How can you enjoy Rambo IV and Elegy in the same year?
Dan Grant26 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I think it is strange how your film palette changes over the years. When I was fifteen, films like Rambo, Terminator and Porky's were the only films I enjoyed. I would of never understood a film like Elegy and I probably would have despised it. But when you are 36 and now have a family and a house and a career, you understand more and you certainly "get" characters like David Kapesh. If you can't empathize or at least understand where Kapesh is coming from in the film, then perhaps it's not a film you should bother with.

David Kapesh, played exquisitely by Ben Kingsley, is an aging, divorced professor who looks for the next female student to seduce. To stay out of trouble, he waits until his class is over and the grades are handed out and then he has a party for everyone where he zeroes in on the student. He proceeds to show them how cultured he is by reading the poetry and showing them his art collection. It seems to work on most but then he meets Consuela, played with an Oscar worthy Penelope Cruz. She is seduced by him but she allows herself to be. She is enamoured with him but she seems to be one step ahead of the game. He falls for her and they begin a romance that he is convinced will end badly for him as she is young, beautiful and desired by most men that she meets. She is also 30 years younger than him. But they click somehow and they seem to truly love each other.

There is also a sub plot about Kanesh's son who he feels alienated from as he walked out on his mom years ago. Also, his best friend, played brilliantly by Dennis Hopper, is the insightful one in the film and comes up with the best line.

"Beautiful women are invisible; we're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside." The film is full of all kinds of insight and although you may not like all of the characters and what they do and what they say, they are honest. Brutally honest is Kapesh. He knows he is a bastard, but he feels honesty is paramount in life. It's why he left his wife all those years ago and it's why he has a hard time being committal all these years later.

Elegy has one of the better scripts in film this year. It is insightful, melancholy, bittersweet and honest all at the same time. Kapesh has lived enough to not really care what others think of him all the time and that includes his son who comes to him with some of his problems. In fact, infidelity seems to be a very big plot piece in the film as everyone seems to be sleeping with someone that they shouldn't be. This is what creates both happiness and misery in the film. Marriage, infidelity and sex are some of the main themes.

I think being older can allow you to appreciate the film much more. When you can laugh at jokes about marriage being a prison and when you can relate to older men still hoping they look somewhat attractive to younger women, I don't think those are the kinds of jokes that teens would laugh at.

Elegy is a bittersweet film and I highly recommend it. I hope Kingsley, Cruz and Hopper all get some Oscar consideration.

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Careful direction, skilled acting, and excellent use of nonverbal communication puts 'Elegy' a cut above the rest.
Marissa Gross9 June 2008
'Elegy' stood out to me not only because of its world-class acting performances (which really were the cornerstone of the film), but also because of several technical aspects that are so effortless and natural, you hardly recognize them as results of a filmmaker's input. Every stare, look, and glance that David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) gives is deep, carefully manufactured, and serves as another means of storytelling beyond simply words. Extended close-ups and other scenic shots are sprinkled throughout the film to make it, at points, visually beautiful as well. It is a rarity to see a film that (successfully) focuses so much on gestures, body language, and imagery, while at the same time leaving the audience with Oscar-caliber performances by some of the most celebrated screen actors today. 'Elegy' is a triumphant effort under Isabel Coixet's careful direction.
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