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Elegy

Directed by Isabel Coixet

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Penélope Cruz is Consuela, a Cuban-American student in New York, bangs framing her face with a deceptive innocence. Ben Kingsley is Kepesh: narrator, writer and Consula's English lit prof, 30-plus years her senior. While fretting about his age and virility he seduces her, becoming obsessed by, and possessive of, her beauty and body. As his Pulitzer-winning, cliche-spouting buddy Dennis Hopper tells him, "You need to stop worrying about growing old and start worrying about growing up." Drawing a portrait of an anxious intellectual, Kingsley is typically sterling, but the story's revelations on the subject of the non-committal male are simplistic---he's an emotional adolescent who feels deep remorse and is pathologically unable to change. Oh, really? Adapted from The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, a writer whose novels have yet to be made into an entirely satisfying film, Elegy looks great, sounds good and is full of solid performances, including ones from Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard. As Consuela, Cruz does some of her best English language work. A real dramatic turn, when it comes late in the running, makes for an involving final act. But it doesn't quite work. The whole endeavour never seems much more than a balm to assuage Roth's aging horndog guilt.

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