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IN SHORT: Best indie of the year, so far. [Rated R for language and sexual content. 105 minutes]
Mick Jagger's a whore. (two three four)
We sit through arthouse-targeted movies looking for the ones with any kind of potential of rising out of that circuit. We don't often find 'em but, once in a while we get a film like The Man From Elysian Fields, which delivers what you pay for, a couple of good stories fleshed out by a number of wonderful performances. It also features the first film performance by Mick Jagger in more years than we have fingers with which to count. We almost hate to lay out the basics of the story because, in black and white, the "basics" don't appear to be all that pleasant. So, parents, send the kids to a different page and we'll drop down into the world of male escorts. You'll be glad you did. Really.
The star of the show is Andy Garcia (click for StarTalk) as Byron Tiller, struggling writer of important novels. Tiller's first novel was hailed by the critics. His second novel, about migrant workers, is a hunk of unmarketable crap. His publisher puts it in more colorful terms but you get the picture. Byron has a beautiful wife, Dena (Julianna Margulies), who works at a store selling used Lp's and baby boy named after famed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. As he pounds away at his word processor, in a seedy rented office, all thoughts turn to the fact that his bank account balance is falling fast; his wealthy father-in-law (who hates him) won't help out with a loan and that the men coming out of the Elysian Fields, Inc. office across the hall are sporting suits expensive enough to cover his monthly house and car payments, combined.
Byron is cursed by a problem common to many writers. He can only put his emotions into words with a nice typeface. Dena knows there are problems but ,when the new book is killed, Byron maintains the facade of success. The book will be published, but with an "uncertain" release date, he tells her. In the meantime, he attempts to repair the bridges he burned when he left his former profession as a writer of advertising copy. What happens there is a great example of why you shouldn't burn your own bridges . . .
Drowning his sorrows in the local bar, Byron is approached by Luther Fox, proprietor of Elysian Fields, a smooth talking devil in a silk suit who lends a sympathetic ear to the writer. Fox, appropriately named and a perfectly cast Mick Jagger, offers a proposition to the man, to join the staff of his company and provide "lonely women in need of emotional and spiritual solace" with "company". Byron flat out refuses, but the fox has laid his trap. "All right, but no sex" comes next and soon Byron has got a rack of suits with his name on it and the advice of fellow escort Greg (ex-rocker Michael Des Barres) to rely on.
That no-sex date is with Andrea Alcott (Olivia Williams), wife of dying diabetic author Tobias Alcott (James Coburn) who encourages his wife's dalliances. One no-sex date ends with the eating of biscotti. Another ends with the eating of something quite different and soon Byron is rolling in cash as co-writer of Tobias' next novel. Not to mention the sheets he's rolling in by now, as well. Dena knows of the book deal but not the rest. Still, her marriage begins to crumble from all the hours Byron puts out, sorry, puts in to his new job(s). He is, after all, doing it all for his family. This devotion inspires boss Luthor, who desires to move a long time "relationship" with one Jennifer Adler (Angelica Huston), wife of an unseen and fabulously wealthy man, to another level.
The Man From Elysian Fields is not about sex. It's about love or the lack of it or what you will do for it. It's a film filled with great performances and clearly told stories that is far and beyond the usual indulgent drek found on the arthouse circuit.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Man From Elysian Fields, he would have paid . . .
Lots of stories here. Lots of consequences. All of handled terrifically. Seek it out.
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