Still photo of Sir Ben Kingsley as David Kepesh and Penelope Cruz as Consuela Castillo from Isabel Coixet's Elegy.
When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life.So says David Kepesh, a bit creepy and way self-absorbed older professor who has captivated his former graduate student Consuela Castillo, now that the semester is over and she is fair game.
Kepesh is another aging and angry lecher in a line of semi-autobiographical characters created by Philip Roth, this time in The Dying Animal (2001) a la The Human Stain, from 2000, which we read in our reading group. I much prefer Roth when he gets outside himself, such in another of oaur selections, the dis-utopian 2004 The Plot Against America in which he imagines a parallel U.S. in which the anti-semitic Charles Lindberg had defeated FDR for the presidency in 1940. (All three books from Houghton Mifflin.)
That said, Roger Ebert, finds the movie, not great, but nicely done, and so do I. Andrew O'Hehir, writing for Salon, admires the acting, but doubts the semi-fairy tale transformation of Kepesh at the end and so do I. In contrast, Anohla Dargis, in a review in the New York Times on August 8, 2008, writes
Comparisons between novels and screen adaptations are inevitable, particularly when a film announces its literary pedigree as this one reasonably does. The trick is not to confuse the two or assume that the best adaptation is the most faithful or makes for good cinema.And yet, Dargis does precisely that, complaining the Kingsley is too virile and not enough of a misogynist.
Elegy has strong supporting performances --Patricia Clarkson, as Kepesh's long-term no-strings sexual partner Carolyn, Peter Sarsgaard as his estranged son Kenneth and Dennis Hopper as his best friend George O'Hearn, with a brief appearance of singer and actress Deborah Harry as O'Hearn's wife, Amy. Sarsgarrd, BTW, as one of his first roles, played murder victim Walter Delacroix in Tim Robbin's 1995 film, Dead Man Walking.