Man From Elysian Fields, The

January 30th, 2003 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Starring; Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, Julianna Margulies, Olivia Williams, James Coburn, Anjelica Huston

Directed by George Hickenlooper

The Man From Elysian Fields is one of those rare films of dramatic observation where the issues at hand are what challenge us, not the premise or plot that delivers them.

A plain, straight, easy to follow story is unfurled without any cool film maker tricks, a premise that’s too alien to relate to or a plot that’s too smart for its own good (and turns, as plenty of dramas do, into an incoherent mess).

It’s easy to and digest without spoon-feeding its moral message, and its many themes are recognisable and universal.

Even better, unlike some genuinely sad and poignant dramas, parts are as funny as hell, and while you’ll swing between if it’s more comedy or drama, neither seem out of place.

Byron Tiller (the multi-faceted Andy Garcia, last seen as the suave villain in Ocean’s Eleven) is a published writer now on the skids of bookstore bargain racks and starting to wonder how he’ll look after his young family.

Enigmatic stranger Luther Fox (Jagger) -who’s seen Byron’s kind of desperation before — offers him a novel solution; life as a high priced male escort to bevies of lonely women.

Blinded by the desire to support his family, Byron accepts and is soon a regular fixture in the life of the Andrea (Olivia Williams), young wife of the enfeebled, withering but hugely successful novelist Tobias Allcott (Coburn).

Everything goes so swimmingly for Byron — Tobias asks him to help rewrite his latest book, he services the social and sexual needs of the beautiful Andrea with Tobias’ blessing — that it’s almost enough to make him forget he’s lying to and cheating on his beautiful and devoted wife Dena (Margulies).

Subplots unfold and everything falls apart as lessons about trust, love and success slap Byron rudely in the face. By then you’ll have sat through such an unusually smart, funny and touching movie you’ll find yourself actually entertaining the notion there might not be a happy ending’

The performances by all concerned are wonderfully passionate, which goes most of the way to making you care and feel for each character.

The big surprise is a very ‘mature’ and fragile-looking Mick Jagger. After his appalling last big budget film appearance (as the villain in the Emilio Estevez action thriller Freejack), he plays a wonderfully self-depreciating character and provides one of the most poignant realisations in the film.

The plot contains some holes, but replay and criticise them to yourself too much and it’ll take away your appreciation of what the film is saying and the feelings of warmth and loss it will give you.

Great viewing for anyone who’s ever tried too hard to make life easy and missed the bigger picture right in front of them (or next to them in bed at night).

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