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Respected cultural critic and author David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is a middle-aged college professor who, for years, has lived in a state of "emancipated manhood." His romantic conquests are many; his lasting commitments, few. But when a stunning young student named Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) enters his life, her otherworldly beauty captivates him to the point of obsession. Soon, their erotic relationship evolves into an undying and passionate love in this gripping drama that explores the power of love to blind, reveal and transform.
There are very few men who wouldnt eagerly sell their souls to be with Penelope Cruz (or whatever character she happens to be playing). But with Elegy, director Isabel Coixet and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer (adapting a novel by Philip Roth) pose some thorny questions: How many are willing, let alone able, to see past a womans beauty and embrace her true being? And when beauty fades, what then? David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is a successful New York author, teacher, and literature maven; a semi-celebrity due to regular TV appearances, hes self-satisfied if not exactly smug, seemingly unconcerned about his advancing age (hes now in his sixties, but as he tells us in voice-over, "In my head, nothings changed") or his strained relationship with the son (Peter Sarsgaard) who still resents him for abandoning his marriage years ago, and content with his occasional and purely sexual relationship with a middle-aged businesswoman (Patricia Clarkson). All of that changes when Consuela Castillo (Cruz) enrolls in one of his classes. More than 30 years his junior, shes not just gorgeous but mature and smart as well. And for all his worldly cool, charm, and experience, once hes involved with Consuela, David turns into just another possessive, jealous, obsessed ("On the nights she isnt with me, I am deformed"), and insecure man, convinced that its only a matter of time before their age difference pulls them apart. Its a given that David will see to it that his self-fulfilling prophecy comes true. But will his lies and fear of commitment prove to be his ruination, or will the tragedies that ensue help him find a path to redemption? The films various performers (including Dennis Hopper as Davids best pal) and overall sophisticated, grownup tone, along with Cruzs almost impossible beauty, make Elegy consistently watchable and compelling. --Sam Graham
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I admire Ben Kingsley's acting (for the most part) and Penelope Cruz is so lovely I was curious and decided to give it a try and ended up purchasing the DVD online.
As several other reviewers have mentioned here, Ben Kingsley plays a sort of intellectual cad praying on his young students for sexual satisfaction to feed his ego. This time he hits the jackpot and has Penelope Cruz by day and Patricia Clarkson as the older business woman every third week for a sleepover. I don't know, his obsession with her breasts and her looks just made me uncomfortable and to feel for her character. You get the feeling he would tire of her once she got older and start having the affiars with his students again.
He never intends to fall in love with Cruz's character, (but he does) and then his lack of maturity hastens the end of their affair.
Several years later he receives a call from her (New Year's Eve) and she comes over to his apartment to tell him she has breast cancer. This is where I lost interest because the film became to depressing, and was depressing to begin with.
Still I must say I watch this film over again when I want to be depressed.
Sir Ben Kingsley is one of my favorite actors. In his role as Professor David Kepesh he delivers a truly believable character as the older intellect that has spent a great deal of his post-divorced life avoiding the permanence of "relationships" and all of its nasty and complicated "entanglements". As a consequence he has also lost the best that love and all of its complications can often bring to a life. Kepesh crosses paths with a young student Consuela Castillo... translated her name literally means "consolation" which could very well be what her role is in Kepesh's life...what he thinks will be an easy conquest for him to accomplish ends up being something totally different and unexpected. Ah, life!
As a fairly attractive and interesting professor, Kepesh seduces his way through women with his intellect and suave explanation of the literature, art and music he surrounds himself with. He is arrogant and believes that when the tryst between them is over he will have left them more cultured in exchange for their new understanding of what it is like to be with an older man. For such a "cultured" man he is rather uncultured.
Early in the movie, he makes a very profound statement about books. Paraphrased...he basically states that if you read it [a book] today it will mean one thing but if you go back and read the same book years later it will mean something different because a book is relevant to the moment it is being read and is just a book until someone reads it and defines what it means. It can change over and over again. I think the same is true for people. We are just who we are until someone comes along and affects, inspires, motivates, forces, and compels us into who we become...for that time in our lives. We can change over and over again.
Ben Kingsley is great but you need someone or something to bring out that intensity; in this "someone", came my greatest surprise and pleasure. Enter Consuela Castillo; a student and an object of desire for the professor. Much like the professor, I didn't expect to fall in love with the character Consuela Castillo, beautifully and believably performed by Penelope Cruz. [Ms. Cruz is getting so much better at leaving her desire to speak English without an accent and is now just delivering the goods. I am a fan.]
I appreciate the way Cruz uses her eyes to speak and her facial expressions and body language say so much for Consulea with so few words. You feel what she is feeling whether it is annoyance for the professor's possessiveness or the look of true desire that we can read with the flair of her nostril and the arching of her back in response to his overtures. You've seen her in other movies where she is very capable of delivering the intent of the character and the moment. She does so in this film with great tenderness and is deliberate in just how much she holds back, leaving you, the audience wanting more of her. So who is the real seducer? What makes her different from all the rest and how did she manage to change the paradigm so drastically? You tell me.
Any way the story is about the alchemy of these two elements. Even when they are lying they are honest. Each of the characters in this story all have much needed and essential roles to play. They hang like a perfectly hinged door opening and closing letting you go in and out of what is happening in the story and feeling it all quite easily without having to give it much thought. There is nothing gratuitous about this story or any of the characters we get to see and meet. What I get from this movie is that life is what happens whether or not you are awake. Living is what you do to make the moments matter. The discoveries along the way are the difference between living and just merely existing. In this story we get to see the continuum disturbed and what would appear to be a stable life, get rattled to its core. That is life. It's all quite beautiful.
There is so much more. Just see the movie and discover what you will...share it when you do.