All the same, “Elegy,” the Isabel Coixet adaptation of The Dying Animal, is a notable if austere film about a senior-citizen professor and his young Latino lover.
Consuela is David Kepesh’s student in a literature class and WANTS to be courted by him after he asks her for a date. By and by they sleep together. Kepesh comes to love Consuela and, assuredly, her body, as she comes to love him. But the old Casanova exhibits a social cowardice that drives the winsome girl away from him.
It has been claimed that the script by Nicholas Meyer softens the ending in Roth’s novel, but in any case the film is a strong examination of human relationships. It’s very contemporary-Lit: without a plot, with sex, poignant.
Ben Kingsley is David Kepesh, lacking charisma but not personality. He’s credible. More beautiful than she’s ever been, Penelope Cruz is a superb Consuela, providing facial play now inquiring, now touching, and all the pleasing solemnity the movie calls for. Many directorial treats has Coixet engendered here, from visually friendly, gorgeous close-ups to the use of Satie’s venerable music.
I think “Elegy” is a success, whether Coixet actually filmed The Dying Animal or not. She did film an elegy, one in which there exists the craving for sensual vitality in old age, prior to death.