Elegy Review
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David Kapesh (Ben Kingsley) appears to have it all. A semi-famous literary critic who also teaches and appears on television, he has plenty of female companionship. Beautiful 40-something Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) comes to spend the night when she’s in town on business, and his best friend, poet George O’Hearn (Dennis Hopper), shares wry observations while they play racquetball. It’s a well-ordered life, nicely balanced and full.

Then, while he’s teaching a class, she walks in. Her name is Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz), and she parks her Latin loveliness in the dead center of his classroom. David is completely smitten, but he skillfully lectures to his class without staring at her too much. At the end of the school year, he throws a cocktail party for his students…but he spends all of his time with Consuela.

This starts an unlikely relationship, a late-twenties student involved with a man thirty years older. He enjoys her company with the sad realization that it will all end…sooner rather than later, he figures. When Consuela asks David if he’s considered a future with her, he fumbles for an answer. For her part, the answer is clear. She wants David, now and forever.

Elegy had my attention from start to finish. The ending isn’t as clear-cut as I would have liked, but I had the impression that all would eventually be well—and maybe, just maybe, these two might have their future. The acting is superb, the pacing is perfect, and the screenplay (by Nicholas Meyer) is first rate.

Ben Kingsley’s David does some odd things. He makes mistakes, and he has flaws. But he’s likeable. Throughout the film, you’ll be pulling for him—then silently scolding him when he screws up big time. Cruz is effective in her role, as well. In fact, this is probably her best English language performance to date. One supporting role that’s also worth mentioning is that of George’s wife, Amy, played by Deborah Harry. She doesn’t say much, but it’s all there in her face as she contemplates a possible life-changing event.

The film was directed by Isabel Coixet and based on a novel (The Dying Animal) by Philip Roth. And the title? An elegy is a song or poem, composed to lament a death. There is death in the film, not only of people, but also of relationships—and perhaps even David’s youth.

I enjoyed this thoughtful and profound study; it stayed with me long after the theater lights came up.

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