MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS, THE
Ex-copy writer for an ad agency, Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) has written one (remainder-binned) novel and is now jobless and destitute, with a loving wife (Julianna Margulies) and son to support. His publisher won’t lend him money, neither will his wealthy father in law. In desperate times, a man does desperate things, and fortune introduces him to Luther Fox (Mick Jagger), the man from Elysian Fields, an upmarket escort agency for well to do women. Byron reluctantly signs on as a temp and is sent to escort Andrea (Olivia Williams), the attractive wife of ageing Pultizer Prize winning author Tobias Alcott (James Coburn). When Tobias finds him in bed with Andrea, Byron’s writing career is changed in a way he could never have imagined. And his sense of guilt is nothing to what he is about to experience at the hands of fate. Or is it his own doing?
Review by Louise Keller:
A biting, multi-layered morality tale about a struggling writer whose emotional and professional survival is at a critical point, The Man From Elysian Fields takes us on a compelling and intriguing journey of self discovery. And what a cast! Leading us into unexpected places filled with startling surprises, it’s a wonderful script that offers such rich and memorable characters that become real and grasp our imagination. A chance encounter with a mystery man who discreetly flashes a business card with the enigmatic name Elysian Fields, Byron tiptoes into the quicksand, naively believing he is still in control of his destiny. But he sinks deeper and deeper, and when his dream of working with a literary legend becomes a reality, not only does his own marriage become compromised, but the sexual relationship he shares with his beautiful client becomes a bizarre ménage a trois. This is a film filled with truths, witty outcomes and revelations at every turn. When the story begins, Byron is absolutely surrounded by the warmth and love of his wife Dena. Their intimacy and closeness is never more poignant than at the moment when Byron calls her from a phone booth, just before he goes to meet his first client. As Dena reassures Byron of her love and support, the camera encircles him, just like an embrace. But then he is lost in the mire and seduced into another world where wealth and position are absolute. The story unfolds slowly, and from an innocent night at the opera to an exchange over cocoa, Byron’s fate is sealed. It’s not surprising that such a script has brought an extraordinary dream cast to the table. Andy Garcia is perfect as the idealistic writer, who genuinely believes his choices are for the good of his marriage and family. The women are superb: Julianna Margulies as the warm, supportive wife, Olivia Williams as the cool beauty whose love for her husband overtakes all shame and Angelica Huston as the long-time consort. James Coburn is magnificent as the ailing Pulitzer Prize-wining author whose desire to please his young wife is as strong as his resolve to maintain his professional integrity. But it’s Mick Jagger’s edgy Luther Fox in the title role, that somehow sets the film into a league of its own. Jagger embodies this sad, lonely man who lives a life of deceit for as long as he can deceive himself. When Byron asks him what will he do, his pragmatic reply tells it all. The exchanges between the characters are classic: Byron and Fox’s meetings in the empty Indian restaurant over scotch on the rocks, Byron and fellow-gigolo’s telling communiqués while dressing for the part, Fox’s vulnerability as he bares his soul to Jennifer. Then there’s the scene when Byron tells Tobias what he really thinks of his novel, as they sit by the near-empty swimming pool, overgrown by mould with ducks paddling aimlessly. A moving and richly satisfying encounter, The Man From Elysian Fields is an indulgence you should not miss.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
While perhaps easily deconstructed as a sometimes imperfect screenplay, The Man From Elysian Fields is crammed with good stuff, ranging from eclectic casting to imaginative scenarios, excellent lighting camerawork, matchingly fine music and some great, truthful dialogue. It’s a film to enjoy, above all, for its moods and intimacies about characters we quickly understand. (Maybe the names are a tad too helpful: Byron, Luther Fox, Andrea, Tobias….) The complexities of the characters are patchily teased out and the details which are not germaine to the emotional plot are left a little hazy at times, but as a total experience, the film is satisfying. The questions we are confronted with bloom like spring flowers: can we make big choices about our actions and hope to control the results? Can we betray love by a smidgin? Can we and should we rationalise anything we do? At what price cash? It’s all fascinating stuff: how would you decide when faced with similar options? Andy Garcia is outstanding in the role of the troubled writer whose journey makes a big dipper look like a flat line. Olivia Williams is at her edgy best, and James Coburn finds yet another old character we haven’t seen before. (It was poignant to preview this film the day after he died, especially as the role calls for him to be on his deathbed.) And then there is Mick Jagger playing a swanky dandy with fruity tones who eventually reveals his soft underbelly only to have it slit open…great, exotic viewing. What a face for cinema! See this; it doesn’t waste your time.
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MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS, THE (M15+) Low level coarse language, adult themes.
CAST: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, James Coburn, Mick Jagger, Olivia Williams, Anjelica Huston
PRODUCER: Donald Zuckerman, Andrew Pfeffer, Andy Garcia
DIRECTOR: George Hickenlooper
SCRIPT: Philip Jayson Lasker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kramer Morgenthau
EDITOR: Michael Brown
MUSIC: Anthony Marinelli
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Franckie Diago
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 23, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: May 28, 2003