The Man From Elysian Fields

The Man from Elysian Fields is a nice change of pace because it is a good adult movie. Here, 'adult' does not mean pornographic (which this movie is not) but sophisticated and complex. It's nice in that the story is able to hide a fairly familiar movie theme, the one of someone rediscovering inspiration. The someone is Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia, Ocean's Eleven, Lakeboat), an author with one critically acclaimed novel. Critically acclaimed in this case does not mean commercially successful, so Tiller lives a modest life with his wife Dena (Julianna Marguiles, Dinosaur, What's Cooking?). Tiller is counting on his second novel to bring him more money and fame so he can provide for his wife. See, Tiller writes literate smart novels that the public ignores. His editor rejects his second novel, and Tiller is so dejected that he doesn't know how to tell Dean. Instead, he lies.

Luther Fox (Mick Jagger, Enigma, Bent) works in the same building as Tiller, and offers him a job as an escort. Elysian Fields is an upscale escort service and Fox believes that Tiller is a good fit. Tiller objects, but realizes that life as an escort is better than a life of poverty. Fox assigns him to Andrea Alcott (Olivia Williams, A Knight's Tale, The Body), the beautiful wife of a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Tobias Alcott (James Coburn, Snow Dogs, Texas Rangers) is in the twilight of his life, and is finishing what is most likely his last novel. He knows and encourages Andrea's use of Elysian Fields, since he wants his wife to be happy. On her part, Andrea is strictly (emotionally) faithful to her husband. Tobias eventually asks for Tiller's help in editing the novel, and Tiller uses this as a sort of inspiration. Helping Tobias finish the novel will eventually make things right with his life.

It's not a big secret where Philip Jayson Lasker's story is going to go. It is how it gets there that makes The Man from Elysian Fields stand above the crowd. Director George Hickenlooper (The Big Brass Ring, Dogtown) uses excellent characterizations and a wry sense of humor to move the film forward. The entire cast is good, with Jagger standing out. Fox is also ending the end of his career. He only sees one client (Anjelica Huston, Blood Work, The Royal Tennenbaums), and against all rules of his profession, finds himself falling in love with her. Jagger provides some sparse narration and also helps to set the mood, one of resigned melancholy. Fox is articulate, well mannered, and deliberate in his speech, and Jagger is all the more impressive given that his portrayal is the opposite of his stage persona.

Coburn's performance is brave. Tobias is dying and knows it, and trying to hold onto his reputation and dignity. Writing is the only things he knows how to do, and is the only thing keeping him alive. Jagger and Coburn overshadow Garcia, Williams, and Marguiles, who have roles that are subtlely nuanced. The acting is also good enough to overlook some of the weaker elements of the plot. Tiller's first novel, about a fictional son of Hitler, looks like junk. There is not enough writing in the movie to make it a movie about the writing process. Instead, it is a movie about redemption and new beginnings. It is the interactions between the characters and the way that they deal with their problems that make The Man from Elysian Fields worth watching.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for language and sexual content.

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