With some fine naturalistic acting, Penelope Cruz just about saves Isabel Coixet's gloomy drama "Elegy" from drowning in the drippy male fantasies of author Philip Roth, on whose short novel the film is based.
Cruz plays a dignified and sheltered student from Cuba named Consuela whose vulnerability is exploited by literary professor David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) in order to get her into bed. Common to Roth's fictional delusions, the clever and wildly attractive young woman falls for the aging roue's sparkling banter, relentless flattery and virile bedroom manner.
Coixet takes the love affair at face value, larding it with plenty of Bach and Vivaldi to give it depth, but as revealed by Roth's original title, "The Dying Animal," it is all about him.
Cruz's performance deserves to be seen widely, and it should place her again in line for prizes, but the story's pretensions and downbeat mood will not endear the film to audiences.
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