April 24th, 2011

THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS (2002) *** ½

Andy Garcia stars as a washed up author who is having trouble making ends meet.  One day, he bumps into a high class pimp played by Mick Jagger who offers him a job escorting hot rich babes.  After thinking it over, Andy takes the job and becomes Olivia Williams’ steady man, since her hubby James Coburn is dying and can’t get it up.  Coburn as it turns out is a best-selling novelist and hires Andy to help him write his latest novel.  Of course, all this poontanging around puts a strain on Garcia’s marriage to Julianna Margulies.  And when she learns her hubby is a certified man whore, that’s pretty much it for their marriage.

 

Directed with a sure hand by George (Hearts of Darkness:  A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse) Hickenlooper, The Man from Elysian Fields is a movie that flirts with greatness.  The thing that prevents it from getting the full Four Stars treatment is that it suffers from a predictable third act and an all too pat ending.  The destination may be a bit disappointing but the journey is more than worthwhile. 

 

This flick has many a beautifully written and acted scene.  There’s a great part early in the film where Garcia hangs around the bargain bin of a local book store and pretty much begs people to buy his book.  It’s a terrific and touching way to set up his sad and pathetic character.  And that’s what I really dug about the flick.  It’s bittersweet and somber but it’s also pretty funny too.

 

Garcia hasn’t been this good in a long time, but its Mick Jagger who steals the film.  As much as I liked him in movies like Freejack, Performance, and Ned Kelly; it always seemed like he was holding back a bit.  Here, he really digs into his role and creates a wonderfully mischievous character that fits his iconic persona to a tee.  Jagger also gets to flex his acting muscles too.  There’s this one particularly heart-wrenching scene where he professes his love to a longtime client (Anjelica Huston) and she just laughs and shrugs it off.

 

Jagger naturally gets all the best lines of the movie.  Like when he tells Garcia, “We tend to the wounds of lonely women in need of emotional, as well as spiritual solace!”  The best part is when Garcia asks him, “I’ll service only women?” and Jagger replies, “Call me old fashioned…”

 

AKA:  The Escort.

THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1973) ***

Robert Mitchum stars as Eddie Coyle, a small time hood who earns bread selling guns to bank robbers.  To avoid jail time, he has to fink on some gun runners.  But when the cops want more names, Eddie is torn between his reputation and becoming a full time stoolpigeon.  Naturally, when the local gangsters get wind Eddie is turning stoolie, they put him on their hit list.

 

The Friends of Eddie Coyle was directed by Peter (Krull) Yates.  Because he also helmed Bullitt, I was expecting a little more action out of this flick.  But the movie is less about action and more about the eccentricities and behaviors of thieves and lowlifes.

 

Luckily, the tough guy dialogue between Eddie Coyle and his friends is pretty great as nearly all their lines are devoted to busting each other’s balls.  And Mitchum is flat out brilliant in this.  Its fun seeing a classy movie star like him playing such a foul-mouthed unglamorous character.  (I thought it was funny that his wife was a total dog.)  He also gets a wonderful monologue about having his knuckles broken that’s just about some of the best acting he ever did. 

 

The character of Eddie Coyle is great; his friends no so much.  (The lone exception is Peter Boyle, who does a good job with an underwritten role.)  Whenever the film focuses more on his friends (bank robbers, gun dealers, cops, etc.), the flick sorta stalls.  When Eddie is front and center, it cooks.