Elegy

"OK"

Elegy Review


Not every book is meant to be adapted into a movie. Come to think of it, not every author is meant for celluloid success. Philip Roth has won pretty much every major book prize, save for the Nobel, and he's overdue for that. His books masterfully examine the fragile side of the middle-aged male ego, and how sex and family and desire eat away at men's souls. With Updike, Mailer, and Bellow gone, Roth is the messiah of American literature.

There's just one problem: Books like his make crappy movies. Roth said as much to GQ's Andrew Corsello, adding that he hasn't been pleased with any of the adaptations, especially The Human Stain. Roth's take: "Awful! And the same people have American Pastoral."

I know that producers are always looking for big, important books to make into bigger, more important movies, which is why The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is on its way to the theaters. That's fine if it gets people reading. But Roth's books (and I've read many of them) are driven by internal struggles. It's the same reason why Stanley Kubrick's Lolita didn't work. (That, and there were no explosions or car chases.) Every part of Roth's writing is so intricate and measured that a director can't just transfer the written page to the screen. Unless you have a masterful director, a great screenwriter, and gifted actors, you're going to get ham-fisted acting showcases or ponderous life meditations. The former happened to Robert Benton when he adapted The Human Stain, and the latter nearly happens in Elegy, director Isabel Coixet's take on Roth's The Dying Animal.

Professor and cultural critic David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) --"a rake among scholars, a scholar among rakes," according to Roth -- eyes sultry student Consuela Castillo (Cruz) in his class and makes it his mission to get her. Kepesh does, which is incredible considering she's some 30 years his junior and way out of his league. Typical of a Roth character, Kepesh wants to have his cake and eat it too. He certainly wants -- possesses is actually a better word -- Consuela, but on his terms. That means he wants to maintain his independence -- including his long-term sex buddy (Patricia Clarkson) -- and his space.

Besides, Kepesh's last attempt at domesticity was an utter failure, leaving him with an ex-wife and a very bitter son (Sarsgaard). Consuela genuinely loves Kepesh, but the man's self-doubt and raging insecurity allows him to gradually sabotage the relationship, which ironically turns Kepesh into a human being capable of love.

The leads give great performances, especially Kingsley, who embodies the virile angst that defines Roth's characters. He thrives inside the shades of grey. And director Coixet examines the dark side of the male ego with complete confidence and insight -- for about an hour. Then the movie runs out of ideas, and efforts to jog the proceedings (the presence of Sarsgaard; the death of a major character) can't get it back on track. Essentially, we get a character study stretched beyond effectiveness.

Still, the movie is worth seeing if only for the first-rate performances and the movie's fierce intelligence. It'll make you want to read Roth, and see how the master paints on his own smaller canvas. Bigger, as always, isn't always better.

Let's go for ice cream.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th April 2008

Box Office USA: $3.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $14.9M

Budget: $13M

Distributed by: MGM

Production compaines: Lakeshore Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 29

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Consuela Castillo, as David Kepesh, as Carolyn, as Kenneth Kepesh, as George O'Hearn, Sonja Bennett as Beth, as Susan Reese, Shaker Paleja as Kris Banjee, as Charlie Rose, Kris Pope as Consuelas Bruder, as Amy O'Hearn, Antonio Cupo as Younger Man, Michelle Harrison as 2nd Student, Sonja Bennett as Beth, as 1st Student, as Susan Reese, Marci T. House as Administration Nurse, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight as Actor #2 in Play

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.