MOVIE REVIEW- Ready for Lifetime: Elegy lacks elegance

a still from this week's filmLike a rollercoaster, Elegy moves along slowly, slowly– then plunges downhill at dizzying speed, finally making a turn so sharp it will eject anyone who's not strapped in.

Adapted by Nicholas Meyer from a Philip Roth novella, The Dying Animal, Elegy will keep you wondering for much of its length why a woman, Isabel Coixet, would have chosen to direct what's obviously an old man's fantasy. When it becomes a disease-of-the-week movie in its final act, you'll have your answer.

For a few minutes we're entertained by the musings of David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), a professor with his own radio show. He explains why he's still an unregenerate hedonist at sixty-something: "In my head nothing has changed." In other words, like most men he's spending the rest of his life making up for the first 10 or 12 years he wasted not having sex.

David's M.O. hasn't changed either. He avoids entanglements with his female students until grades have been issued– not for ethical reasons but to avoid sexual harassment charges– then throws a cocktail party for the class and moves in on his prey.

This semester his choice is Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz), a lovely Cuban-American. Despite Kepesh praising her "sophistication" and Castillo saying she spent some time in the workforce before starting college, Cruz looks out of place in the classroom and in the role, even though she's supposed to be a graduate student, "30-odd" years younger than her teacher.

Paradoxically, her appearance removes some of the sting when they finally get together. They're still not "Aren't they a cute couple?" romantic, but at least Kingsley doesn't come off as Peter O'Toole-in-Venus disgusting.

David knows it can't last, which drives him to jealousy and possessiveness that threaten to end it sooner.  He hedges his bets by continuing to see a former student, Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson), every three weeks.  As much time as he spends with Consuela, it's odd that Carolyn wouldn't catch them together. For that matter, would this woman who claims to know him better than anyone really believe he's been faithful to her for 20 years?

When he gets tired of narrating, Kepesh uses his best friend George (Dennis Hopper), a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, as a sounding board. The only other significant person in his life is his son Kenny (Peter Sarsgaard), with whom he has a very strained relationship because he abandoned the boy and his mother decades ago.

Elegy deserves no elegies as it disappears quickly on the way to its final resting place, in heavy rotation on the Lifetime Channel.#