Elegy

Philip Roth's novella The Dying Animal is a strange choice for a movie adaptation. A brief coda to Roth's Professor of Desire series about the sex-obsessed David Kepesh, it's basically a monologue in which college professor Kepesh recalls his affair with a Cuban American student 38 years his junior. Director Isabel Coixet apparently saw a tender romance in this slender phallocentric story and has made it into a glossy drama with the unusual casting choice of Ben Kingsley as Kepesh. Kingsley is a fine actor, but making Kepesh an Englishman is a bad idea, as he sounds a bit awkward at times. Penélope Cruz is lovely as Consuela Castillo, the object of Kepesh's desire, though she doesn't quite evoke the voluptuous siren whose breasts drove Roth's Kepesh into an erotic frenzy. The supporting roles fare better: Peter Sarsgaard is intense as Kepesh's resentful son, Patricia Clarkson is fine in the small role of Kepesh's longtime bedmate and Dennis Hopper is delightful as Kepesh's friend, poet George O'Hearn. The cinematography is beautiful and the soundtrack is filled with tasteful classical music, but there isn't enough story to sustain a feature film. **1/2
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