The Man From Elysian Fields

The longeurs of embittered writers loom large over this fable about success and the price paid. If star and producer Andy Garcia's performance were as razor sharp as Mick Jagger's, this would be an extraordinary film. As it is, it's a good one, the kind of small pleasure that's especially sweet when you stumble across it by surprise. Novelist Byron Tiller...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The longeurs of embittered writers loom large over this fable about success and the price paid. If star and producer Andy Garcia's performance were as razor sharp as Mick Jagger's, this would be an extraordinary film. As it is, it's a good one, the kind of small pleasure that's especially sweet when you stumble across it by surprise. Novelist Byron Tiller (Garcia) is in dire straits. Though his sexy, supportive wife, Dena (Julianna Marguiles), loves him without reservation and believes fiercely in his talent, his first novel, a far-fetched thriller called Hitler's Child, garnered a few good reviews and made a beeline for the remainder bin. He can't sell his new manuscript — something symbolic about migrant workers — his old boss in the advertising business takes sadistic glee in refusing to rehire him and his wealthy father-in-law scornfully refuses to lend him a cent. So Byron is vulnerable when a sleek fellow named Luther Fox (Mick Jagger) makes a proposition. Luther runs an escort service called Elysian Fields — the clients are all women, he assures Byron, rich, lonely older women. Some of them don't even want sex, just companionship. Byron resists until the humiliation of being broke and without prospects outweighs the humiliation of whoring, then submits to Luther's AMERICAN GIGOLO make-over: Off with the professorial specs, on with the sharp suit and hello first client, Andrea Alcott (Olivia Williams). Given that she's married to aging author Tobias Alcott (James Coburn), Byron is unprepared for Andrea's youth and beauty. And he's shocked by the ailing Tobias' wholeheartedly approval of her bought-and-paid-for liaisons, though no more so than when the multiple Pulitzer prize-winner — Byron's literary idol — flatters the younger writer soliciting his opinion, even if he clearly expects pro forma praise. Most shocking of all, when Byron dares criticize, Tobias invites the younger writer to collaborate on revisions. It seems to good to be true, and perhaps it is. Director George Hickenlooper shows a fine, reserved hand in conveying the clammy fear of bungling a potentially life-changing opportunity, and longtime TV writer Philip Jayson Lasker's (Barney Miller, The Golden Girls) script is literate and often witty. But it's Jagger's bone-dry, mournfully brittle delivery that gives the film its bittersweet bite. Michael Des Barres and Anjelica Huston make the most of their supporting roles as, respectively, an Elysian Fields veteran and a long-term consumer of Luther's services.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: The longeurs of embittered writers loom large over this fable about success and the price paid. If star and producer Andy Garcia's performance were as razor sharp as Mick Jagger's, this would be an extraordinary film. As it is, it's a good one, the kind of… (more)

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