Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Man from Elysian Fields" (2002) - Movie Review

Having seen film couples break apart, “The Man from Elysian Fields” would be the first to break my heart. The film directed by George Hickenlooper does the incredible thing a movie maker and a writer thrives to achieve in their work, to precisely feel the pain of the characters they want the audience to empathize upon. Such is Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) in the famed hall of writers and he needs to hunt the book store which holds his first novel and canvas the browsers to buy it. He has a lovely family, an adoring wife Dena (Julianna Margulies) caring and supporting in his day of failures for his second book to be published and a son Nathaniel.

He is the believing writer having hopes and courage to see his rest of the life writing beautiful novels. He has quit his ad agency job and he did it in style by telling his boss to screw himself who rightfully gives it back when Byron resorts to get back. He is in desperate times because his editor thinks his work is not commercial enough. He does not tell it in a precise word but he tells a line which is what I have seen many of the regular film goers use to be bamboozled and annoyed by films with subtle meanings and needs some work from the viewers to enjoy it. We hear the story of Byron by the voice of Mick Jagger as Luther Fox. He is confident about Byron that he would make a terrific employee. Luther runs an escort service.

Byron hesitant as he should but hitting the bottom and not ready to let down his wife which he does so unaware, gets into the business. He meets his first clientele Andrea (Olivia Williams). She is the spouse of a dying Pulitzer Prize(s) winning writer Tobias Alcott (James Coburn). Andrea is representation of serenity but a deep sadness within. Tobias walks in when Andrea and Byron are together in the bed and without a slightest uncomfortableness, Andrea introduces Byron to him. Tobias does the same but has his knack of being sarcastic. He has few days left in his life and a book he has been working as the epic piece marking a requiem. It is a matter of time before Byron informs that he is a writer and out of a rare deal of third ear, Tobias provides his manuscript. It stinks as Byron tells after a punch in the nose. Soon Andrea and Tobias offer something more than Byron’s regular service, a co-authorship to help Tobias die with a reputation. Rest of it is how two women loving their men unconditionally are shattered and devious enough to pull off the worst thing ever upon the other people.

A film beginning as a story for something a plot setup soon turning out to be the pain the characters go through. Byron is humiliated but tells himself that he is doing for the family. He is disgusted when Andrea licks his fingers. Director Hickenlooper does not want to show the pain and the awkwardness Byron went through in having sex, that he has it only when Tobias comes in storming in the middle of it. It is a film about men who cannot bear the sight of their partners loving them so much. It almost kills them to see them suffering and showering relentless love. They wonder what does she see in their flawed character to blindly believe and follow them. They are disgusted by their existence on being impotent and getting denied of being the that exemplified stature of being a man. The biological and social ego how much ever it can be peeled always leaves behind a scar.

Movies generally portray men as an affectionate father, a vengeful/frustrated/romantic husband but to understand and saying that their confusion is a blossoming out of the love in the sympathizing and heart breaking fashion could be “The Man from Elysian Fields”. We see Byron in several stages of him being the man. As a head of the house dying to not support his family, to be castrated by taking the job of accompanying and pleasuring women and then as the broken husband unable to undo the things.

But what is most beautiful about the film is the other men apart from Byron. Tobias a diseased writer loves his wife and allows her to have an escort. He deals it with his own pain and do not want his sadness to gloom her. That is the reason when he is at his happiest asks him to sleep with Andrea. The most interesting and another dimension of a man is Luther. Luther has been in the service for thirty years and he has fallen in love with a client of his, Jennifer (Angelica Houston). He proposes to Jennifer who still is married, and asks to leave her husband. Her reaction is expected but Mick Jagger gives a face of a man ripped off inside out. That would be second most humiliation a man could not stand on the screen. First one of course is Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” getting rejected over phone while the camera moves down to hallway unable to see our man being butchered by his cry inside. Then there is Nigel (Michael Des Barres), a cheerful middle aged employee of the service providing suggestions to the newbie Byron and he provides the profound line about his profession to Dena.

There is nothing more I can tell to say how much I loved and admired the film. It is a film which in the end came whiskers away in being the traditional happy ending. Though the ending seemed more than what audience wished for than the actuality of the reality, it smoothens out. “The Man from Elysian Fields” might be the film which says that men are pigs but they are so as much as women are complicated. Andy Garcia is nothing short of meticulous in being the defeated, passionate and broken Byron. I would never expect someone like Mick Jagger subliming into the neat and wise Luther. At the same time his Luther cannot stop his nature of being the male. Olivia Williams provides a woman who can be admired and hated at different parts of the movie while James Coburn is cheerful in his Zen comments. Julianna Margulies gets less time as the loving wife of Byron but she gets the emotions so strong to really feel for the relationship when it is broken down. “The Man from Elysian Fields” is a man’s film very much for women.

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