With a name like Elegy, it’s unfair to expect anything but sadness.  For a lot of people, sadness equates to gravitas, or grandeur.  This is true to an extent.  Films like Atonement, Million Dollar Baby, Gladiator, they manage to express feelings of sadness in a beautiful way.  Other films want to beat you to death with the idea, but never can, it comes across as faux-self pity.  Elegy falls somewhere in the middle.  There are brilliant shining moments, and there are times where it’s not sure what the point of the story is.

The problem isn’t in the performances which are remarkable.  Penelope Cruz plays Consuela, a remarkably beautiful (does she ever play anyone that isn’t remarkably beautiful?), disarming MFA student at an unnamed, but prestigious university.  After taking a class from the extremely intelligent David (Ben Kingsley), the two enter in to a relationship that can’t be called sordid, but defies definition.  Both have their concerns.  David is thirty something years her elder.  He fears she’ll leave him for someone better, someone younger.  Dennis Hopper plays George, David’s Pultizer prize-winning friend and confidant.  He hardly has the credentials to give advice on relationships, spending most of his adult life cheating on his wife.  David has chosen the single life to keep his independence, to keep things simple.  But everything becomes complicated when he realizes Consuela means more to him than he’d like to admit.

David narrates much of the film, frankly discussing his sexual desires, his fear of commitment, not once trying to hide his sexism, or his brutal honesty.  The sadness is found in much of the story, but mostly in David’s character.  He’s in his sixties, accomplished academically, but unable to really bond with anyone (an unfortunately overstated side plot with David’s son, played by Peter Sarsgaard, shoves this notion in the viewers face).  Nicholas Meyer did a tremendous job adapting the novel by Philip Roth (called The Dying Animal), but at times, it seems like Roth (already in his seventies) was writing about wish fulfillment, romanticizing things a tad too much–the beautiful, almost perfect, young woman finding love in a much, much older man.  Despite these slight flaws, director Isabel Coixet (The Secret Life of Words) deserves the highest praise for taking this story and matching it to the perfect tone.  It’s not melodramatic, it just is, and that’s hard to find now days when most ‘art films’ are taking themselves too seriously.  No, it’s not a perfect film, but Elegy is accomplished and mature, and will move you more than you expect.


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8 Responses to “Elegy”
  1. you make me want to be a better blogger.

  2. Steph says:

    Great review. The premise of the film is somewhat stale but I thought that the performances really took it to another level. I actually prefer Penelope Cruz’ work in this film to her work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

  3. Mary says:

    I have Elegy waiting to be watched. Your review makes me want to watch it more.

  4. Reel Whore says:

    I loved the performances. Patricia Clarkson was exceptionally lovely, as was Cruz. I almost wished they’d dropped the whole son side story as it did feel obtrusive. Either drop it or expand on it, not just the fleeting mention.

  5. chartroose says:

    I just can’t picture Ben Kingsley in a a sexual role. He is a good actor, but I find him to be terribly unattractive. I think I’ll skip this, even though you liked it.

  6. magicman says:

    I’m very impressed by your writing. “The films are able to express sadness in a beautiful way.” Isn’t that so true? So many films or works of art are magnificent because they are able to express something so beautifully. How do you think that is done?

  7. Ira says:

    Этот идиот не пришёл на важную для неё вечеринку, а потом он, видите ли, пару-тройку лет подряд делал вид, что ему не так всё это и надо (жизнь продолжается и всё такое), на самом деле всё это время ожидая её звонка. Ну не тупо ли? Он забил на то, что важно для неё, а она еще и звонить должна. Забыл как телефоном пользоваться?!

  8. blake says:

    А, тебе (Ире) только нравятся фильмы где все умные и не делают ошибки? Ой ой ой, тогда наверно тебе нравится мало…. 🙂

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