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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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David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) is a college professor who is living a happy bachelor life without attachments until he meets Consuelo (Penelope Cruz)-a sophisticated, gorgeous, grounded Cuban-American, going back to school for her MFA. Kingsley discusses his affair with his best friend George O'Hearn (Dennis Hopper). David continues his relationship with Consuelo for a year, until Consuelo asks him to come to her graduation party. Unable to face her parents, David is a no-show. Consuelo ends the relationship. David misses her. She calls him two years later to say she has breast cancer and is dying.
There are some sad truths in this film. As you get older, the people you love die. It makes you feel very mortal. When a lover dies, a version of you goes with them. You face a death of yourself along with the person you loved. Further, when you're dying you think about all the people you used to love and how much you're going to miss them. You'll even miss whatever sad circumstances they brought into your life.
Penelope Cruz is stunning and wonderful in the role of Consuelo. I've loved Penelope from way back in the day, when she was playing roles in Pedro Almodovar films like All About My Mother. And Ben Kingsley suits his role so well you forget he's acting. My only criticism of the film is that I don't always feel Kepesh's regret. It may be that Kingsley isn't arrogant enough in this role. Besides not being able to face Consuelo's parents and attend her party, he's pretty good to her. He makes plans to take her to Europe. They go everywhere together. He seems to put her through a lot less than a man her age would. If I were dating a woman 30 years younger than me, I'd be scare to meet her parents too. Kepesh doesn't come off as cruel or indifferent to her in the relationship as I think he needed to be. In fact, he seems to really love her. Yes, he has one casual entanglement, but what 60 year old lover isn't going to have some baggage?
Roth loves to explore relationships of the older man with the slightly inappropriate younger woman as he did in The Human Stain: A Novel. But Elegy is much more than a May/December romance. It's a touching tribute to a lover that is missed. Recommended with a box of tissue near.
Will his previously well-worn theories about relationships undergo a complete transformation? Seeking counsel and advice from longtime friend, George (Dennis Hopper), David tentatively forays into the uncharted waters of love at a different level - a level almost bordering on commitment - while still hanging on to his lackluster single existence between "visits" from Consuela.
Never really venturing into her "real" life, which would include meeting family, getting to know her deeply, David is therefore (almost) prepared when the relationship ends.
Two years later, the two reconnect - after David has suffered the death of his friend George, and gone on to carve out a semblance of a life - at which point Consuela shares life-altering news. Only then do they begin to understand the depths of their love for one another.
Based on the Philip Roth novel The Dying Animal (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International),Elegy is a melancholy and in-depth exploration of the human condition.
Author of: Web of Tyranny, etc.
ELEGY left me with many thoughts to ponder, regarding the human psyche: Our often poor choices; how many times we sabotage our happiness; the extensive boundaries we often draw around ourselves; our frequent inability to really see others beyond the surface, and perhaps, even ourselves. How we may snap one day and realize we've lived a life of self-fulfilling, superficiality, while never fully engaging, and that it is suddenly time to pay the consequences. Yes, ELEGY stares these emotions and conflicts (and many more), straight in the eye. And if you don't have tears coming out of yours by the last scenes, as our characters face these demons, you're stronger than I.
ELEGY does justice to Philip Roth's erotic novel, THE DYING ANIMAL, which explores sexual indulgence, challenged by aging, and facing the grim-reaper. David Kepsch (Ben Kingsley) is an aging, college professor, and somewhat of a celebrity, who left his wife and son during the 'free sex' era to indulge in serial womanizing and self-absorption. Sadly, it is an era that he never wanted to give up and he begrudges growing old, or becoming that, 'Dying Animal.' He'd prefer living the, Peter Pan dream, forever, with his now-and-then, sex partner played by Patricia Clarkson and any sexy, young thing, he can lure into his lair, use up, and discard. But in his golden years, they are becoming fewer, and farther, between.
In steps the young, Grad student; the gorgeous, erotic, Cuban---Consuelo Castillo (Penelope Cruz). The chase ensues, but Kepsh begins to suffer severe, narcissistic injury, as his obsession grows and he has to face their 30 year age difference. Consuelo appears equally infatuated and appears to care less about the age difference. But, instead of embracing his good fortune, Kepsh becomes filled with self doubt, fueled by his best friend (Dennis Hopper). He repeatedly offers terrible advice, except for: 'Don't grow OLD, grow-up,' which was most fitting, although he didn't mean it in the literal terms he should have, being a naughty little enabler, himself.
The ending of this movie shows many lessons learned, particularly how the things that worry us most, aren't always the way life plays out; how fleeting and fickle life can be; how true love can re-route our destiny, for the bitter, and, the sweet.
This film will not be for everyone. First off, it is fairly erotic and carries a PG17 rating. And, as previously stated, it is not an action, or mystery film, but a deep character study. I suspect the younger crowd would not be too interested in the aging protagonist, Kepsh, or much of the theme, although they might like to see the sultry Penelope, sans clothing. That said, it definitely targets a more mature audience.