The lives of oth­ers

EL­EGY Di­rected by Is­abel Coixet. Star­ring Ben Kings­ley, Pene­lope Cruz, Den­nis Hop­per, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son, Peter Sars­gaard, Deb­o­rah Harry

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

16 cert, Cineworld/Light House/ Movies@Dun­drum, Dublin, 113 min THERE is some­thing ter­ri­bly ado­les­cent about this prob­lem­atic film’s con­cep­tion of what be­ing grown-up is all about.

Is­abel Coixet’s El­egy, an adap­ta­tion of Philip Roth’s novel The Dy­ing An­i­mal, con­cerns it­self with a near-imag­i­nary class of cin­e­matic snoot that lives in up­town Man­hat­tan, writes for the New Yorker and doesn’t know what a television is for. They seem to think them­selves brighter than the Mekon, but, when placed un­der stress, they reach for such mu­si­cal cliches as Arvo Pärt’s fran­ti­cally overused Spiegel im Spiegel.

As if all that weren’t an­noy­ing enough, the film con­cerns it­self with yet an­other ag­ing, boozy aca­demic chas­ing yet an­other in­ap­pro­pri­ately youth­ful stu­dent. Oh, please.

And yet. The su­perb cen­tral per­for­mance from Ben Kings­ley – si­mul­ta­ne­ously smug and frag­ile – and de­cent sup­port­ing ones from a sprightly look­ing Den­nis Hop­per and a stat­uesque Pa­tri­cia Clark­son just about see the film through.

Sir Ben plays a pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture who, de­spite the en­croach­ing signs of age, has reached a kind of sta­bil­ity in his life. Nights are spent hav­ing sex with his con­ve­niently un­de­mand­ing lover (Clark­son); days are taken up gos­sip­ing with his old­est buddy (Hop­per). When he meets and falls for a Cuban stu­dent, that happy equi­lib­rium be­gins to crum­ble.

Pené­lope Cruz is al­ready a decade too old for the fe­male lead, but she ex­hibits enough bruised charm to get away it. The di­rec­tion by Coixet, per­pe­tra­tor of the dire My Life With­out Me, never rushes the per­form­ers, and Ni­cholas Meyer, writer of the re­gret­table Roth adap­ta­tion The Hu­man Stain, does a de­cent job of fil­let­ing out the au­thor’s pithi­est ob­ser­va­tions.

Be­sides which, who would want to miss a film in which Den­nis Hop­per gets to feed Ben Kings­ley scram­bled eggs?

Pene­lope Cruz as an un­likely grad stu­dent

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