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Sep 25, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Elegy

Have you ever had the desire to watch a two-hour shampoo commercial? How about a two-hour love letter to the imperceptible beauty - outer AND inner - of gorgeous college students (or Penelope Cruz)? Or how about a 120-minute ode to the wonders-of-the-world that are Cruz's breasts?

Yes, it's true, guys. If you had no interest in seeing Elegy before, at least the prospect of having "the most beautiful breasts I've ever seen" shoved in your face every ten minutes doesn't sound so bad. Obviously taking a cue from Marissa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Cruz is asked to parade around here topless for what seems like half the film. At least it's equal opportunity, though - 48-year old Patricia Clarkson gets in on the act, too, and we see more scenes of Ben Kinglsey without a shirt than we probably ever needed to (even Dennis Hopper is pulled into the no-shirt parade).

Outside of the boobfest, though, Elegy offers little else. Kinglsey plays the lead, a literature professor and small-time New York intellectual celebrity, but for a two-hour film, it's unacceptable that he's practically the only character with more than one dimension. For all the talk of the "invisibility of beautiful women" and how men never dig deep enough to really, really, get to know them, it's beyond ironic that the film essentially gives Cruz's Consuela the same treatment. I didn't realize that telling the audience that her family is from Cuba and that she likes dancing (con her hermano) qualified as "character development." Hopper, while entertaining, is little more than the yin to Kingsley's yang, playing the devil's advocate/surrogate conscience. And Peter Saarsgard is wasted as Kingsley's bitter son in a role that, while important to the main character's backstory, doesn't provide much of anything for the present day. His main contribution ends up being the fodder for one of the film's best lines of dialogue (when Kingsley's David Kepesh tells his son "You're so morally superior to me, even our adulteries can't compare. Yours plays the oboe."). Only Clarkson's longtime "friend with benefits" is given any sense of additional depth; her independence mirror's Kepesh's, as does her struggle to age without losing their shared relationship philosophy.

There are lots of films about playboys and their inability to grow up, but few seem as dishonest as Elegy. Kepesh is sold to us as a sort of troubled genius (and renaissance man) that just happens to enjoy the company of gorgeous, younger women. But it's hard not to think of him as just a predatory lech. I felt creeped out for Cruz - a shame she didn't feel the same way.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Whatever."


7 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Elegy"

Rick Olson said...

Interesting take, Fletch ... I haven't heard this flick called dishonest before.

But does old guys liking the company of younger, beautiful women automatically make him a "predatory lech?" I mean, I get the lech part ...

A fine and interesting review.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the skinformation Irwin, sounds like this could be lame indie flick thats actually worth checking out...

-Gay

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the skinformation Irwin, sounds like this could be lame indie flick thats actually worth checking out...

-Gay

Daniel G. said...

I agree with the one-dimensionality of the characters, but while I would have given it a B or B-, the positive marks would have been for Kingsley and Cruz's acting with the little they had to work with.

Sarah said...

I've read many a review recently praising "Elegy" to the skies, so I'm glad to get a second, contrary opinion.

Like you, I thought Penelope Cruz and Peter Saarsgard were criminally underused as actors. They are both tremendously talented, yet receive near-cursory attention in this film.

Ben Kingsley, likewise, is a terrific actor but his character is rather dully predicable in "Elegy." He is a troubled intellectual, an aging enfant terrible struggling with his own emotional immaturity and unwillingness to change. Kingsley plays it well, but, hey, we've seen it all before.

I'd prefer to see Kingsley in another "Sexy Beast," a role that is exciting and frightening in its unpredictability.

Fletch said...

Rick - absolutely not, regarding the 'predatory lech' label. There was something about the way he wooed her, from the wine to the art book to the way he stared longingly (and sometimes as a straight up object) that seemed like a female mantis ready to take her male.

Gay - my pleasure. I can't deny that the film jumped up a few spots in my book with all the Cruzness all over the place. After awhile though, it gets ridix.

Daniel and Sarah - I've become a big fan of Kingsley over the last few years (most likely post-Sexy Beast) as I wasn't all that familiar with his work before that. Sure, I knew he was in Ghandi and Death and the Maiden, but I can't recall anything else that I saw him in prior to 5 years ago or so. I ought to study his filmography a bit more.