Published Sep 01, 2001
The title makes "The Man From Elysian Fields" sound somehow meaningful and literate. It isn't either. Fiction writer Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) is faced with raising his young family on a remainder bin salary and his editor turns down his latest opus about migrant workers. While there is no pressure from loving wife Dena (Juliana Marguliese), he feels guilty enough to meet up with a stranger he meets in a bar who has offered help. This stranger, Luther Fox (Mick Jagger) runs an escort service for lonely rich women. Desperate, reluctant Byron takes him up on his offer. His first client is Andrea Allcott (OliviaWillams) wife of famous and dying writer Tobias (James Coburn) who, it turns out, is one of Byron's favorite authors. The Allcotts each have needs that they feel Byron can meet. Risking everything, he agrees to the situation. What starts out as a story of cooperation turns into a tale of exploitation and manipulation.
Predictably pedestrian is the best way to describe Hinkenlooper's latest film. It tries really hard to be intellectual without being smart. Struggling writers and devoted wives elicit the proper amount of sympathy without the viewer having to make to much effort to really think about what is being said. The writing sounds like it should be good clever cliches and profound nodding of heads, but it isn't. Kind of like chain store cappuccinos sort of the right thing, but not really.
And that ounce of chain store espresso never really hit the sleepwalking cast either. Mick Jagger, the poncey dandy, never really convinces us that he's even just a gigolo. Creepy and extremely haggard, he better heard than seen. Indeed, his delivery of the poor narrative is compelling and a recommended career move. Garcia and crew never really give us anything to soak up. Not we have to care or sympathize with the characters, but we should at least be interested in them. Presumably that's why we're there. Due to the bad writing and lackluster directing, we know where the story is headed and likely how will end. The acting at least should fill in the many gaps. It does not.
"The Man From Elysian Fields" isn't completely barren of seeds of good ideas. There are ghost husbands and ghost writers of ghosts-to-be. There are fountains of youth to the dried up wordsmiths. But, to paraphrase from the movie itself, "an idea is only bad if it doesn't work." The elysian fields were a mythical place for poets go to die. It seems it was taken literally.