I’ve been on a bit of a Isabel Coixet fest of late. I find her films unusual, and if not always flawless, always interesting. From Map of the Sounds of Tokyo (***) which led me to The Secret Life of Words (***) which led me to Elegy. This one, adapted from Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, although still flawed, is probably the best of the three. Penelope Cruz as the young student that is hit on by her professor is luminous (as usual). I know I must use that word every time her name comes up. What can I say? Ben Kingsley, cast as the aging professor who can’t commit to a monogamous relationship, is not entirely believable as the love interest. As Professor David Kepesh’s (Kingsley) best friend, racquetball partner and confidante, Dennis Hopper (poet George O’Hearn) plays it straight and true. Patricia Clarkson, as Kepesh’s long-time no-commitment lover, is very good as well.
At a party he throws after the close of each semester (something of an annual event), Professor Kepesh has set his sights on the beautiful young Cuban-American Consuela (Cruz) and slowly makes headway until they are full-bore lovers. Troubled by doubts (he believes she will eventually leave him anyway) he shows signs of jealousy and embarrassment at their difference in ages, which eventually puts an end to their affair. Ironically, Consuela really did love him.
The twist in the story comes after all this and is by turns emotional and head-scratching.
Torpedoed by the lame male fantasy aspects (hello, Phillip Roth) I still feel that one day Coixet will put all the parts together and create a great film.