The Man from Elysian Fields
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Unable to provide for his family, failed writer Byron Tiller (Garcia) reluctantly takes on a job as an escort for the Elysian Fields agency. As luck (or fate) would have it, he becomes involved with a client who happens to be the wife of famed author Tobias Alcott (Coburn), who happens to be dying. Alcott makes a proposition to Byron who sees his career take a turn for the better while seeing his family crumble before him.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I like a movie about man-whores as much as the next guy but THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS is "hit-and-miss" at best. The problems started before images even appeared on the screen with a narrative by Mick Jagger. Hearing him spew out corncob lines such as “I’ve spent years trying to pleasure women” is more difficult to bear than you would imagine. Now Mick may be all right when he’s wiggling his effeminate ass on stage, but his creepy voice and girly manners (not to mention his prune-like face) were a distraction from the get-go and bounced me out of the story right after the opening credits. It didn’t help that the opening narrative led straight into a scene in which we get to see Andy Garcia as he would appear in the entire movie.
Unfortunately for Mr. Garcia, he confused the “tormented and conflicted” aspect of a failed author with the “bland and boring” one, thereby keeping a single facial expression and a single tone of voice during the entire picture. It didn’t help that that facial expression and that voice tone were also very boring. It also didn’t help that they failed miserably to convey any kind of emotion and that halfway through, I realized that I didn’t give a rat’s ass about this guy's life. Another thing that made me care even less about what would happen to his family was the fact that his wife was played by the irritating and charmless Julianna Margulies whom for the love of me...I’ve never been able to appreciate.
The film wasn’t totally horrible though and in fact, it was almost rescued by the duo of James Coburn and Olivia Williams, who aside from being quite attractive (I’m talking about Williams of course-- although Coburn was still quite charming) was Garcia’s saving grace, giving him his few opportunities to actually say something we could have cared about. Coburn was his usual mischievous self in one of his last film appearances before his passing. This film may be worth watching for the unlikely coupling of Williams and Coburn and if you don’t blink, you can even catch Anjelica Huston (probably returning a favor). Overall though, it remains a vein attempt at a psychologically tormenting tale of failure.
There’s only one actual feature on this DVD, that being a full-length audio commentary with director George Hickenlooper, writer Philip Jayson Lasker and “star” Andy Garcia. It’s pretty average as far as commentaries go (I’ve been saying that a lot lately...). Hickenlooper does most of the talking and goes into as much detail as is usually expected regarding the making of the film, casting and shooting. Not surprisingly, Garcia is quiet, reserved and... well...boring. There are also a few TV Spots and the Theatrical Trailer in there as well.
This flick garnered a lot of praise upon its original release, most of which was for its screenplay, but I would be hard pressed to second that. While it had an interesting premise, it was executed in such a way that I never really got into any of the characters and the emotion was drawn out of me very infrequently. Furthermore, Garcia was flat as the lead character and that pretty much razed the rest of the cast along with it. Even as a rental, I wouldn't rate it more than just a "maybe".