For a movie about an alleged hedonist and libertine, and one that stars one of the most beautiful women in the world, Elegy is remarkably dour and unsexy. Even the numerous love scenes between Kingsley, as promiscuous college professor David, and Cruz, as his much younger lover Consuela, are somber and gauzy rather than passionate and lusty. Early in the film, David describes Consuela as "austere" in what apparently passes for flirting in their New York intellectual circle, and director Coixet seems to have confused austere with sensual as well.
Still dedicated to sexual freedom even in his twilight years, David is thrown for a loop when he pursues the gorgeous Consuela at his traditional end-of-semester, find-a-female-student-to-boink cocktail party. Far more than a fling, their relationship deepens over the course of a year and a half into something more powerful than David has ever experienced, even if he’s too afraid to admit that to himself. His poet best friend (Hopper) and longtime on-and-off lover (Clarkson) both disapprove of the romance, and it eventually comes to an unpleasant end.
But there’s still plenty of movie left after that, most of which consists of watching David mope around as he deals with heartbreak, aging and his ungrateful son. Based on the novel "The Dying Animal" by Philip Roth, Elegy is meditative and glum, but not quite as profound as its tone seems to suggest it is. Coixet favors languorous, quiet scenes that imply seriousness without exactly delivering it, and the dialogue from screenwriter Nicholas Meyer (who also wrote the 2003 Roth adaptation The Human Stain) is often saddled with clumsy exposition.
Kingsley is nicely restrained as the essentially unlikable David, but his far hammier turn in the recent The Wackness was ironically a more insightful portrait of the struggles of aging for a man who refuses to grow up. The sometimes florid narration, in Kingsley’s sonorous voice, only makes the heavy imagery more of a drag, but the whole thing might have worked nicely as an audio book.