RUNNING TIME 113 minutes
WRITTEN BY Nicholas Meyer
DIRECTED BY Isabel Coixet
STARRING Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dennis Hopper
Elegy, a depressing but well-made adaptation of a Philip Roth novella by Spanish director Isabel Coixet, explores the changing landscape of love between a history professor (Ben Kingsley) and a Cuban student 30 years his junior (Penélope Cruz). Her beauty takes his breath away, but their affair is ruptured by his anxiety, jealousy, insecurity and imagination—all crippled by her absence when she leaves him. He allows himself to become a fool for love, without putting up any resistance, but convinces himself it’s just a matter of time before she finds someone younger, more desirable. How long can it last? How long will she still care? If you keep asking these unhealthy questions and giving yourself jaded answers, they’ll eventually come true. But when the girl gets serious, it’s the man who hasn’t got the guts to respond.
Two years later, she turns up again on a rainy New Year’s Eve—brave, needy, no longer gorgeous and in the kind of life-altering trouble that finally makes it possible for him to love her unconditionally. Patricia Clarkson is wasted as an older lover who lays her cards on the table and offers no strings, no commitments, just sex for the sake of sex. Peter Sarsgaard mopes around as the professor’s hateful, neurotic son. And Dennis Hopper is mystifyingly lacking in credibility (i.e., woefully miscast) as a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Elegy is thoughtful and unsettling, though the good cast at times fails to jump-start this dank treatise on the high cost of aging and the fraudulent romantic lie that beauty is only skin deep.
I’d tell you more, but Nantucket beaches beckon and Maine lobsters lure. See you in September.