Directed by Isabel Coixet (R)
A playboy professor falls for one of his students.
Philip Roth’s heady, complex novels are sought after by Hollywood but rarely given the adaptations they deserve, said Keith Phipps in The Onion. This film, based on 2001’s The Dying Animal, fares better than most, but still falls short of the book. Ben Kingsley plays a roguish professor who habitually seduces his students, until he becomes smitten with one sultry graduate student (Penélope Cruz). Spanish director Isabel Coixet “captures all the pitiless, morbid introspection” of Roth’s story but “none of the fleetness.” Rather than illustrate the character’s inner turmoil, Coixet has Kingsley “directly vocalize” every thought, causing the film to “lurch when it should glide.” Elegy doesn’t have the book’s “rushing intensity,” said David Denby in The New Yorker. Coixet instead “works with candor, directness, and simplicity” to create a “calmer and quieter” film. She never plays down the book’s “brutally honest, unabashedly sexist views,” says Leslie Felperin in Variety. Yet she puts them in perspective. When it comes to Roth, “boys will be boys,” but it’s telling that a woman finally gave his fiction a worthy adaptation.