Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cruz Crushin' - Part 2

Release: 08.08.08
Rated R
1 hour, 53 minutes

Full Price ($$$$) <
> Matinee ($$$)

Welcome to Part 2 of Cruz Crushin'. After seeing Penélope Cruz stride confidently among, and all over, the cast of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it was amazing to see her in such a vastly different, and substantially more sane character.

David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast) is a literary critic and professor. He was married early in life but escaped from that union years ago. His son, Kenny (Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey), continues to carry rage over his father's abandonment. David enjoys a unique relationship with a savvy businesswoman and former student, Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson, Married Life). His closest bond is with his trusted friend, poet George O'Hearn (Dennis Hopper, Swing Vote), with whom he talks at length of sexual desires and exploits. When he meets Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz, Blow), his student and a woman three decades younger, David's feelings for this magnificent creature debunk his firmly established hedonistic principles.

Elegy, based on the Philip Roth novel, The Dying Animal, is adapted by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) and directed by Isabel Coixet (Paris, je t'aime - Segment: Bastille). The film opens with a voiceover from David, making observances on the nature of aging. It's a debate of the mind wanting what the body can no longer have, sexually speaking. When David sees Consuela in his class, his mind immediately wants her but he fears his body will be too old to attract her. However, David is patient and professional. Instead of throwing Ms. Castillo across his desk during his first available office hours, he waits until his post-semester party to court her appropriately.

The courtship and budding romance of David and Consuela is subtly directed, with careful attention to detail, by Coixet. Ironically, the film proves you're never too old to experience young love. The camera is as much in love with Penelope Cruz as David is with Consuela. The film solely chronicles David's life; we know nothing about the other characters outside of their interactions with David.

Ben Kingsley is intense. Watching him sit and stare into the distance is more defining than an hour's worth of dialogue. Cruz matches his excellent performance. Hopper's role, though small, is perhaps his best performance in years. Sarsgaard has an equally minuscule, yet crucial role. His story serves to remind the audience, and David, of his past stance on matters of love and fidelity.

Dirty Undies
The expression 'make love to the camera' comes to my mind again and again with Elegy. In one scene, Patricia Clarkson lounges in a chair dressed in her business attire and just the position of her crossed legs is stimulating. Cruz lies about nude a lot, with each scene carrying a different emotional weight. In the more stressful scenes, I had to remind myself to absorb the pain in her teary eyes, not to etch the image of her ample naked bosom in my mind.

The Money Shot
Coixet is amazing behind a camera and her cast amazing in front of one. I found myself empathizing with David, which I think was the goal. If anything, this bittersweet tale frustrates because David does exactly those things you expect and that you would do, too, if you were in love for the first time.

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  1. I just saw "Elegy" and man, is Penelope Cruz HOT or what?!?

    Like you, it took "Volver" to make me realize that Sra. Cruz is something special.

    Before, I saw her merely as a chick with a funny accent and a crooked nose -- cute, yes, but nothing to write home about it. "Volver" changed all that. Those curves! That sass! That voice! Heck, she's even a pretty decent actor.

    She was the best part of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and a big factor in why "Elegy" works so well.

  2. Exactly how I felt. I saw her Sahara and was like big whoop. Then seeing both VCB & Elegy in the same weekend bowled me over. It was a double barreled blast of acting talent and sexiness.

  3. I chose to so Vicky Cristina Barcelona over this film. But after reading your review, perhaps I'll have to go back and see Elegy.

  4. This certainly did a lot more for you than it did for me. While I can certainly appreciate Cruz's beauty, I had a little bit too much of the camera doing it. There just wasn't enough substance to the film for me.

  5. Saw it and liked it. I think I am going to have to read the book this is based on, The Dying Animal. Cruz gives a great performance as does Kingsley.

    Now if only they release Manolete.

  6. @blake- Elegy is slower than VCB but Kingsley and Cruz sucked me in.

    @Fletch- Elegy just really got into my head and got me thinking and empathizing w/ Kingsley. It was deep, man!

    @filmbook-Kingsley/Cruz, totally. I doubt I'll read the book, I've got a book backlog now.

    Hadn't heard of Manolete before. Never cared much for Brody until Darjeeling Ltd. He and Cruz should make a good flick.

  7. I have a book backlog too (I'm reading 2001: A Space Odyssey right now) but I'm dying to see Manolete.

  8. I'm hoping my upcoming recovery will give me time to catch up on movies and books, I just wonder how many in-theater flicks I'll miss out on.

  9. Recovery from what, if I may ask?

  10. @film-book: I had to have gut surgery the last week of Sept (a long complicated name I can never get right). I'm back at home now and recovering from Stage 1 nicely. I hope the rest of the process goes even smoother.

  11. Jesus man, that sucks.

  12. @film-book: The worst was the in-hospital recovery. I'm doing much better now. Once I get back to full strength I have the pleasure of going back for a second surgery so I can start the recovery all over again. Joy!