Spanish director Isabel Coixet (“My Life Without Me”) brings to the screen this adaptation of the novella “The Dying Animal” written by acclaimed and controversial Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Roth (“Goodbye, Columbus,” “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “The Human Stain”).
This moving, intense drama for mature audiences follows the passionate relationship between celebrated, charismatic college professor and author David Kepesh (Academy Award-winner Sir Ben Kingsley) and ravishing, raven-haired student Consuela (Penélope Cruz), who is 30 years his junior.
Kepesh is enchanted and obsessed by this sophisticated daughter of Cuban immigrants. He views her perfect body as a work of art.
She becomes more than a desired sexual object. His vulnerability ripens into a terrible case of jealousy and possessiveness.
The movie weighs marital commitment versus the freedom and independence of bachelorhood. An older man’s lust and mortality make for strange bedfellows. The movie points out that time passes when you’re not looking and how the mind plays tricks in an effort to evade the inevitable aging process.
Being true to its title, the movie is a contemplative lament on the unpredictability of life and the constant threat of death.
Kingsley, who doubles as the brutally honest and chauvinistic narrator, gives a showcase performance. He proves yet again why he is considered one of today’s greatest actors.
Dennis Hopper shines in a supporting turn as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet George O’Hearn, who is Kepesh’s best friend and sounding board. Hopper’s character dishes out common sense advice and has all the best lines.
Patricia Clarkson plays Kepesh’s longtime girlfriend with benefits. She does a daring striptease for the camera and shows how alluring an older woman can be.
The movie has a low-budget, claustrophobic feel with most of the scenes shot in Kepesh’s New York City apartment.
There is an unnecessary subplot involving Kepesh and his estranged 35-year-old son, Kenny (Peter Sarsgaard). The movie has a soap opera ending that leaves the viewer confused. Before the end credits roll, you expect to see the words “to be continued.”
It is no accident this film is going into wider release. It is hoping to ride on the gloriously successful coattails of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which also stars Cruz and Clarkson.
Opening exclusively at the Leawood in Kansas.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"