Movie review, 'The Man from Elysian Fields'

Andy GarciaMoviesEntertainmentJulianna MarguliesMick JaggerJames CoburnAnjelica Huston

"The Man from Elysian Fields" is a sleekly intelligent film about whoring yourself in Los Angeles. It's a movie that starts off nicely, offers two marvelous performances (by James Coburn and Mick Jagger) and then slowly, unaccountably loses itself.

It's ironic, because that's what happens to the main character, Byron Tiller (played well by producer/star Andy Garcia), a commercially failed novelist recruited into an escort service, Elysian Fields, by its jaded impresario, Luther Fox (Jagger). Byron accepts unwillingly and proceeds with justified fears, lying to his wife (Julianna Margulies) about his new job. But it leads to an opportunity: Hired regularly by Andrea Alcott (Olivia Williams), the wife of famed, dying novelist Tobias Alcott (Coburn), Byron becomes Tobias' co-author on his last book, which has been going badly. All the lines of prostitution, literature and integrity converge, leaving Byron chastened and the audience with a load of schmaltz that damages our memories of the good things that went before.

Those include fantastic jobs by both Jagger and Coburn, and by Anjelica Huston in her brief cameo as Luther's best customer. Jagger looks and acts to perfection the stylized role of a fading gigolo, and Coburn is equally good as the roaring, cancerous old author. They're reason enough to see the film.

But for all the intelligence and literacy of Philip Jayson Lasker's script and the quality of the acting - under the sympathetic direction of George Hicklenlooper ("Hearts of Darkness") - "Elysian Fields moves in such odd plot directions and descends into such message-mongering moralism that its good qualities are obscured.

This movie needed to be smart, cool and seemingly cruel all the way to the end - the only way it could have won the final pity and catharsis it wants.

2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
"The Man From Elysian Fields"
Directed by George Hickenlooper; written by Phillip Jayson Lasker; edited by Michael Brown; production designed by Frankie D.; music by Anthony Marinelli, Thomas Morse; produced by Donald Zuckerman, Andrew Pfeffer, Andy Garcia, Norm Waitt. A Samuel Goldwyn Films/Fireworks Pictures release; opens Friday, Nov. 1. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: R (language and sexual content).
Luther Fox - Mick Jagger
Byron Tiller - Andy Garcia
Tobias Alcott - James Coburn
Andrea Alcott - Olivia Williams
Dena Tiller - Julianna Margulies Jennifer Adler - Anjelica Huston

Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.

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