The Man From Elysian Fields
***.1 GM
Starring: Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, Julianna Margulies, James Coburn, Olivia Williams


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I went to see this movie strictly because the synopsis indicated that James Coburn would be playing a "larger than life" character, and that's something I'll want to see every time out. I saw this film in spite of the fact that it featured Mick Jagger, who I still haven't forgiven for "Start Me Up." Yes, I've always been more of a Beatles guy. The Stones have a small number of songs I enjoy - "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Paint it Black" and I'll leave one more slot open for a song I haven't heard yet - but overall, I think of Mick Jagger, I think of him prancing around like a moron in purple spandex, and I want no part of it.

The story is thus: Andy Garcia is struggling writer Byron Tiller, who isn't really making enough scratch to support his wife Julianna Margulies and his young son named Nathaniel Hawthorne Tiller, which right off the bat makes me root for something cruddy to happen to them. Nathaniel Hawthorne Tiller. PLEASE. Trying to read "The Scarlet Letter" in high school nearly put me off books forever. That's like naming your child "Philip Pirrip Haverfinkel," "Hamlet Yorick McDonald" or "Pretentious Jones."

Anyway, he can't get anyone to like his new book and publish it, he can't get his old advertising job back because he told his boss to fuck off, so he does what any man needing money to support his beloved new family would do, he goes and becomes a male whore for Mick Jagger's Elysian Fields Escort Service that conveniently has an office down the hall from Byron's. You may wonder why an upright guy like Byron would want to cheat on his wife professionally rather than pick up a paper hat at Burger King (although come to think of it, having sex with rich women seems like a slightly better way to kill time than watching french fry grease bubble over), but you can attribute it to the fact that Mick Jagger's character, Luther Fox, is a standard enigmatic British man that says pithy things. That will sway most pretentious Americans to do whatever he urges them to do, and we've already established that Byron is the type of pretentious sort that doesn't really believe he's pretentious. Not to mention that pretentious people wouldn't deign to work at Burger King, either.

So his first job is to service Andrea (Olivia Williams), who is married to legendary author Tobias Alcott (James Coburn), who approves of her purchasing the services of whores because he's dying and can't service her himself, and he loves her and wants her to be happy. When Coburn shows up, the movie picks up, because Coburn is great. He is "Hemingway-like," which makes me think I should probably read a Hemingway book at some point. At the moment, "Hemingway-like" means rugged and robust. He's interesting, odd and he forms a partnership with Byron to write a book together, which of course leads to him spending more and more time away from his family, which of course leads to a handful of awkward Andy Garcia exploding rage moments that don't particularly seem natural.

Despite what it may sound like, I actually did enjoy this film. It's only after the film ended that I really came up with all the snarky things to say about it. While I was watching it, it was interesting, occasionally clever and kinda funny. I even enjoyed Jagger's mysterious witty benefactor... or I suppose it would be "malefactor" considering the results of his offer to help. The film simply requires a little suspension of disbelief, I suppose, in order to buy into liking a guy that chooses infidelity over a menial job. It's a film worth seeing, though, because James Coburn delivers another likeable performance and makes you not care that his name is Tobias.

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