Ben Kingsley and Penélope Cruz act up a storm in thoughtful Elegy.
ELEGY Directed by Isabel Coixet, written by Nicholas Meyer from the novel The Dying Animal, by Philip Roth, with Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson and Dennis Hopper. A Maximum release. 108 minutes. For venues and times, see film times. Rating: NNNN
Finally, a summer movie for adults.
In a season dominated by comic book adaptations suitable for teenagers (even if adults are flocking to them), along comes Elegy, the story of womanizing college prof David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), who gets more than he bargains for when he takes up with his ex-student, Consuela (Penélope Cruz).
Speaking as someone who's despairing over the rhapsodic reviews of the so-serious-it's-to-laugh The Dark Knight, it's a relief to discover a film that deals with issues that actually matter: mortality, friendship, the complexities of father-son relationships.
True, the story of an aging guy who's afraid of commitment and even more terrified of losing his sexual appeal isn't exactly a new one - and Philip Roth, on whose novel the film is based, remains one of America's most notorious sexists - but it's handled deftly here.
Credit director Isabel Coixet with getting the most out of her great cast.
Cruz shines as the young Cuban-American who sends David into paroxysms of jealousy. No way hers is just a pretty face.
Dennis Hopper wins the Purple Heart for bravery for his turn as the poet George, David's colleague. If you're still harbouring images of Hopper as Easy Rider's biker rebel, you can kiss them goodbye forever after seeing this. He's now doing the old guy thing with huge skill.
Peter Saarsgard as David's son, impatient with his father's philandering until he does some of his own, has just the right edge. And the great Patricia Clarkson checks in as David's casual girlfriend - of 20 years - with another dynamite turn.
But it's Kingsley who drives Elegy. As the man who can't commit, he's sad, infuriating, gentle, brilliant and dumb. Anyone who's been disgusted by Kingsley's more recent out-of-control performances (especially in The Wackness) will be relieved to hear that this one is pitched just right.
Who knew it would take a female director to get him under control?