Saturday, January 03, 2009


Caution: Lust

An elegy. A form of poetry that mourns of something that has deteriorated. And in this film there couldn't be more references to this term, forming the basis of the theme and everything that happens to all the characters involved in this pensive, melancholic piece. Based on the novel by Philip Roth and directed by Isabel Coixet, this film stars Ben Kingsley as culture critic and lecturer David Kepesh, and snapshots his life during the twilight years, where physical deterioration doesn't mean a proportionate deterioration in sex drive.

Or at least that's what the character's first impression to the audience was. Through narration, we get to hear David's innermost thoughts, where he candidly reveals both his fear of growing old, and private moments where he honestly shares with us his feelings especially toward the new and beautiful student in his class, Consuela (Penelope Cruz). While aware of the 30 odd years age gap separating them, that doesn't mean that he's going to give up his game of skirting around the sexual harrassment decorum of the school.

In fact, his physical relationship with his student form the crux of the film, about perceived societal pressure and disdain for cradle snatchers, of how one's initial motive of a short fling could turn out to be something more serious and emotional, and relationship insecurities on both sides - with one understandably jealous of some unseen, young strapping hunk there to take his lady love away, and of the other worried that there might be commitment issues with a man so advanced in his age.

But what lifted this movie into a different emotional stratosphere, are the supporting cast and characters that surround David's life, either providing counsel, or problems and issues to deal with altogether. A visibly aged Dennis Hopper plays David's best friend and poet George O'Hearn, who while on one hand goads him to do the right thing (or ending it all off), he too might seem a little hypocritical, and brings about a fleeting notion of infidelity to the table too.

And it seems that dysfunctional characters in the relationship sense permeates through the film at every corner. We have David's F*-buddy Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) who's an alpha-female type character with all the luck at the professional level, but none whatsoever on the personal front, and David's estranged son Kenneth, played by the excellent and terribly under-rated actor Peter Sarsgaard, who shares some of the most poignant and memorable scenes in the movie opposite Ben Kingsley, trading some very quick witted barbs.

Just as when you thought the film might seem to have reached is plateau, it surprises one with a startling development that would on one hand seem to satisfy the voyeur in the audience (given the rating, and consistent audible yawns during the non-sexual moments), but on the other push through that sense of regret that makes you feel for the characters.

Excellent acting from the ensemble cast, and with relationship themes that many could identify with, would make Elegy earn that recommended status from me.

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