Monday, August 25, 2008


“ELEGY” (Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson & Peter Sarsgaard)
Lou Grant didn’t like ‘spunk’... Me? I don’t like pompous tripe & ‘Elegy’ is jam packed with it. I wish I had counted the number of times I rolled my eyes at a line of dialogue and thought, “What pompous tripe!”
I also wished I’d taken a pen so I could quote directly from the screenplay some of the exceptionally dopey lines. One I tried to remember came as Professor/Theatre Critic David Kepesh (Kingsley) was making love to one of his two ‘true’ loves; “When a man has sex with a woman he is getting even for every bad experience he’s had in his life” (Or some dribble like that) That was the first line that had me thinking, “HUH?”
Here’s the plot; Elderly Professor Kepesh is teaching a class which contains a Cuban-born student that looks remarkably like Penelope Cruz (named Consuelo) The Professor, we learn thru his v/o gears the entire year to lead to his bedding of the beautiful woman who is young enough to be his Granddaughter. (Never mind that SHE looks like Penelope Cruz & HE looks like Ben Kingsley – Great actor/not exactly known for his tremendous good looks)
I could see where the student might become infatuated enough to possibly sleep with ‘wrinkled Gandhi’ once, but once he turns into an obsessed stalker, it should have been ‘So long, Grampa!’
David is a dull, exceedingly conceited character – someone who thinks his opinion is the only one that matters & tells you what your opinion should be. Women are merely vessels to be anchored to long enough to satisfy his sexual needs & then discarded.
He has a regular lover/friend with benefits closer to his age range - Patricia Clarkson, playing a poorly drawn woman, but giving her as much life as any actress possibly could.
In other words, I bought Patricia’s performance as ‘becoming’ that character – I just thought the character was weakly written; her quotes & actions somewhat confusing at times. She and David seem to have an understanding that their relationship is purely physical, yet she throws the tantrum of a jealous wife when she discovers a tampon in his bathroom. David, adding to his many lovely qualities is also a habitual liar (One gets the feeling it’s because ‘chicks are easy to fool’ in his mind)
Dennis Hopper plays George, David’s best friend & poet – it’s easy to see how the two became friends, they are practically carbon copies of one another – ergo, George is a dull character, also void of the ability to remain faithful to his wife.
The biggest surprise involving George is that his wife is played by ‘Blondie’ (Debbie Harry in a short cameo) I won’t give away any of the plot twists, but there was one scene where I felt that David was attempting to make a pass at ‘Blondie’ at a most inopportune time. It just struck me as odd – one of the dudes from ‘Easy Rider’ matched with Blondie?
Peter Sarsgaard plays Kenny – David’s son who hates his guts for abandoning him as a child & having very little to do with his upbringing... So when Kenny gets entangled in his own extramarital affair, to whom does he go to for advice? Of course, the father he hates with a passion. Another message sent loud & clear by this production – ALL MEN CHEAT ON THEIR WIVES – NO EXCEPTIONS!
Although the reason for Kenny to visit his estranged father is irrational & senseless, the latter portion of the scene is probably the only poignant moment in this film full of pompous tripe.
This would have been a much more interesting, realistic & entertaining film had they stayed along the vein of having David become Consuelo’s stalker – obsessed with her every move – fantasizing that she’s having numerous affairs with men much younger & better looking than he; a potboiler building to an exciting climax – will he flip out & kill her, or will she manage to get the upper hand & snuff his sorry, arrogant butt?
After repeatedly hurting her emotionally, Consuelo disappears from David’s life – only to reappear to ask him to take some nude photographs of her. “I have no one else to turn to,”
she says... “Uh, how about a professional photographer instead of the conceited old geezer who made you feel like you weren’t worth 10 minutes of HIS time unless you were naked & in his bed?”
No, David has no interest in Consuelo beyond stroking his own inflated ego – so when the final heartfelt scenes played out – none of it seemed sincere to this viewer. In fact, as tears flowed like tap water from actor Kingsley’s eyes, I had to cover my mouth to keep from snickering out loud.
So if you see this film someday & find yourself thinking, “Boy, what a load of pompous tripe!” You’ll know who to thank for that phrase... Oh, you’re entirely welcome – it’s all in a day’s work.


Anonymous said...

I share your cynicism on this one.


terry r. said...

Thank you, AJ, I've received emails telling me 'I don't know good acting when I see it' - but the fact is I think Ben Kingsley is an excellent actor, just not here - & it's not entirely his fault, his character has no character & the dialogue he's forced to spew is... well, pompous tripe (Those 2 words describe 'Elegy' perfectly to me)
Hope to hear from you again

movieluva said...

OK, so you two are about the only people that I have heard say they didn't like this movie.
I think Kingsley's performance was great. Something different that you usually don't see from him. Not every character in a movie is supposed to be likeable or a good guy. There really are men like David in the world. I have met them.
Someone advised me to go see it as I live in downtown Seattle, so I get to see pretty much anything I want, and I'm glad I did, because I liked it.

terry r. said...

Movieluva, I hope you know I luv the fact that you read my words & leave your thoughts on the various comments that are written, & I hope I don't tick you off, but I'm going to defend myself on why "Elegy" stunk & it may sound like I'm insulting you while doing so, but I have to respond to your statement that I didn't like Ben Kingsley's performance because his character wasn't 'a likeable good guy'. Just last year, I actually agreed with the Oscar voters that Daniel Day-Lewis & Javier Bardem deserved to win awards for best actor & supporting actor... Those characters weren't exactly 'good guys'. Sean Penn is my favorite actor - how often does he play someone likeable? To help you understand my critique of 'Elegy' let me reveal to you the fact that I hate Shakespeare. It's why I call my reviews - the ramblings of a common smart-ass - People don't actually talk the way William S. writes & I don't 'get' why that makes him 'superior' to other authors. & that's the biggest problem I had with 'Elegy' - The characters, especially David(Ben) didn't come off as being 'real' to me because he spoke in an 'unrelatable' way (Pompous Tripe) Yes, there are plenty of womanizing bastards out there that are only interested in 'conquering' as many women as they can sexually, but Ben's waterworks scene when he discovers Penelope's situation was so out of character & over-the-top with melodramatics, it literally made me laugh out loud... When that happens, I have no other recourse than to say - that is a prime example fo bad acting right there. Which just goes to prove that even great actors (& Ben deserves to be described in that fashion) can have an 'off' performance - & this one I would blame on the 'stuffy,
snobby' dialogue he was forced to deliver...
I'M GLAD you enjoyed the movie - you feel you got your money's worth & that's great. With me, you're going to get my honest opinion, no matter how many people tell me I'm WRONG for feeling the way I feel, & I hope by knowing that you'll continue to read my babbling reviews & leave a comment whether you agree with me or not.
Thanks again for dropping by.