Release Date: August 8 (limited)
Director: Isabel Coixet
Writer: Nicholas Meyer, Philip Roth
Cinematographer: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson
Studio/Run Time: Samuel Goldwyn Films, 108 mins.
Being an intelligent, self-satisfied, confident and worldly college professor is not enough to protect David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) from the power of love in Elegy, Nicholas Meyer’s film adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel The Dying Animal. While having a reputation for seducing his female students, Kepesh continuously avoids any kind of lasting relationship, until he meets Consuela (Penelope Cruz), a dark-haired beauty of Cuban immigrants who becomes Kepesh’s lover, but also his obsession. Like an infatuated schoolboy fearful of rejection, he pines over her when she is not with him but keeps her at bay when she is close. While the age difference seemingly means nothing to Consuela, Kepesh uses it and his belief in carnal adventures without commitment to sabotage any kind of possible future together.
While employing all his incredible talents, Kingsley, at times, says more with a simple stare. Cruz does well to keep up, but as Kepesh’s superiority complex breaks down into self-doubt, regret and fear, Cruz takes the opportunity to gamely shine as an actress. Dennis Hopper serves as Kepesh’s friend, primarily as a sounding board to the professor’s indecisiveness. Unfortunately, it’s the use of Hopper’s character that later weakens the film as it sidesteps into some awkward moments surrounding an academic speech. That, and a seemingly forced ending, keep Elegy from being more than a character vehicle for one of our greatest actors and an opportunity for some creative dialogue on the pitfalls of romance.