×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Man From Elysian Fields

A fine cast further illuminates a felicitous script in "The Man From Elysian Fields," an engaging tale about a down-and-out writer whose provocative solution to helping his family only places it in greater peril. This well-made indie got lost in the shuffle at its Toronto fest world preem due to its immediate post-Sept. 11 scheduling slot.

With:
Byron Tiller - Andy Garcia
Luther Fox - Mick Jagger
Dena Tiller - Julianna Margulies
Andrea Allcott - Olivia Williams
Tobias Allcott - James Coburn
Jennifer Adler - Anjelica Huston
Greg - Michael des Barres
Edward Rodgers - Richard Bradford

A fine cast further illuminates a felicitous script in “The Man From Elysian Fields,” an engaging tale about a down-and-out writer whose provocative solution to helping his family only places it in greater peril. This well-made indie got lost in the shuffle at its Toronto fest world preem due to its immediate post-Sept. 11 scheduling slot, but the picture deserves further fest exposure and a commercial shot based on above-average qualities in all departments. Strong reviews would be needed to complement thesp names in putting this personable work over as a specialized theatrical release, where edgier fare is the more welcome commodity, but pic would also be a good fit for quality cable and international TV slots.

A fanciful take on the dilemma of what a decent man might do just to make ends meet, pic stars Andy Garcia as Byron Tiller, a Pasadena-based novelist whose most recent tome went straight to the remainder table and understandably can’t muster an advance on the new book he wants to write about migrant workers. His wife Dena (Julianna Margulies) is still endlessly supportive of his unrenumerative career choice, but the desperate Byron has come to realize that a radical move is required to support Dena and their young son.

A possibility presents itself courtesy of Luther Fox (Mick Jagger), a dapper gent with offices at the same run-down Hollywood and Vine office building where Byron maintains a cubicle. In short order, the silken-tongued Luther offers the quick lucre Byron needs if the good-looking scribe will come work for him at Elysian Fields, an elite male escort service primarily catering to wealthy women. After some obligatory I-could-never-do-that-ing, Byron reluctantly decides to give it whirl, and he is excited to learn that his designated partner, Andrea Allcott (Olivia Williams), is the lovely young wife of one of his heroes, great novelist Tobias Allcott (James Coburn).

With the proceedings already well lubricated by Jagger’s sly readings of some of scenarist Jayson Philip Lasker’s witty repartee, Coburn delivers the full juice as the larger-than-life Tobias, an aged literary lion whose sexual function has recently broken down along with the rest of his body and who thinks nothing of bursting in on his wife’s sack sessions with Byron to make sure everything’s going all right. Tobias just wants Andrea to be happy, but also takes advantage of Byron’s expertise as a wordsmith, seeking his advice on an epic novel about ancient Rome that Tobias has been working on for years.

When Byron informs the old master that his book stinks, Tobias unexpectedly counters with the proposal that the young man collaborate with him. In the script’s most far-fetched gambit, Byron convinces Tobias to drop the Roman idea altogether and take up the migrant workers subject instead; with Tobias clearly cut from the Hemingway-Jones-Mailer cloth, it would be impossible to swallow his submission to the will of another writer were not the joke on Byron in the end, which it is.

Although Byron has a legitimate excuse for being absent for long stretches, his wife eventually learns the truth and gives him the heave-ho. For her part, Andrea, whose true feelings for her lover have always remained opaque, has a nasty surprise for him after Tobias finally kicks the bucket. Resolution to the yarn’s myriad dilemmas is rather softly conventional.

In a film with two supposedly talented writers front and center, it’s a pleasure to luxuriate in a script with dialogue that is droll and pointed throughout. It’s only in some of the plot points and motivations that things don’t entirely compute, notably in regard to Byron’s relatively late blooming literary career, but also in relation to the underdetailed emotional/psychological impact his deceit has on him.

After some fine documentary work and a patchy track record through four previous narrative features, director George Hickenlooper does his most sustained and controlled work in fiction here, finding humor throughout and eliciting fine turns from his eclectic cast. Garcia, who also co-produced, is effective as the well-intentioned man who both benefits from and pays the price for his ethical slipperiness. Jagger, in addition to delivering his bon mots with aplomb, adds some unexpectedly human and melancholy notes to his role of an aging pimp and roue who dreams, at long last, of settling down with a longtime client, played with invigorating relish by Anjelica Huston.

Coburn, who seems to be channeling Anjelica’s father at times, is an absolute delight as he effortlessly dominates every scene he’s in. Williams certainly has “the face of an angel” that Luther promises to Byron, although her role remains relatively one-dimensional, as does Margulies’ as Byron’s wife. Ex-rocker Michael des Barres has some nice moments as a veteran gigolo in Luther’s employ.

Pic was shot at well-chosen L.A.-area locations; its solid production values are enhanced by fine lensing by Kramer Morgenthau and Franckie Diago’s atmospheric production design. Anthony Marinelli’s score is also a plus.

The Man From Elysian Fields

Production: A Gold Circle Films presentation in association with Shoreline Entertainment of a Donald Zuckerman/Pfilmco/Cineson production. Produced by Zuckerman, Andrew Pfeffer, Andy Garcia. Executive producers, Norm Waitt, Paul Brooks, Larry Katz, Morris Ruskin, Vicky Pike. Co-producers, Tony Vitale, Glenn S. Gainor, Dara Weintraub. Directed by George Hickenlooper. Screenplay, Jayson Philip Lasker.

Crew: Camera (FotoKem color), Kramer Morgenthau; editor, Michael Brown; music, Anthony Marinelli; music supervisor, Randy Gerston; production designer, Franckie Diago; art director, Jay Spratt; costume designer, Matthew Jacobsen; sound (Dolby Digital), Steuart Pearce, Peter V. Meiselmann; supervising sound editor, Michael Chock; associate producer, Josie Wechsler; assistant director, Mark Little; casting, Heidi Levitt. International sales: Shoreline Entertainment, L.A. Reviewed at Harmony Gold, L.A., Oct. 17, 2001. (In Toronto Film Festival -- Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Byron Tiller - Andy Garcia
Luther Fox - Mick Jagger
Dena Tiller - Julianna Margulies
Andrea Allcott - Olivia Williams
Tobias Allcott - James Coburn
Jennifer Adler - Anjelica Huston
Greg - Michael des Barres
Edward Rodgers - Richard Bradford

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content