Koch on film
By Ed Koch
This is a wonderful film. It is more in the style of a European film than a traditional American. It involves an older man, age never stated, except that he is 30 years older than she is, and she is a student in one of his classes at what looks like Columbia University in New York City.
She, Consuela (Penelope Cruz), worked as a law secretary before going to Columbia, so that would make him about 60 years old. While this is the story of youth and age in a love affair, 60 really is not so old, not from my perspective. The New York Times reviewer, Manohla Dargis, who read the Philip Roth book “The Dying Animal,” on which the film is based, wrote that David is 70 years old. Still not so old.
He, David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), meets Consuela outside of class, as he puts it, only after the grades have been given out. At a party at his home that is for all of his students, they talk and commence an affair. He was married, is now divorced and the father of a Kenny (Peter Sarsgaard), his son the doctor. Kenny is in a constant battle with his dad because of the divorce, but clearly wants his love, of which he has been deprived.
David has an ongoing relationship involving only sex – without love – every few weeks or so with another woman, Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson). He has a friend, George O’Hearn (Dennis Hopper), to whom he confides all in exchange for advice and support. They also exercise together. George is married and has affairs from time to time and believes himself to be much more worldly than David.
The affair between David and Consuela deepens. David realizes it can’t go anywhere. But Consuela thinks it can. That struggle between the wisdom of age and the optimism of youth is the clash. The two are terrific together and totally believable. Kingsley, who is no John Edwards in appearance, carries it off superbly. Cruz is a truly beautiful woman with the ox eyes of many of the women in Picasso’s paintings. She is identified as Cuban.
What happens to their love and to them becomes very important to you, the voyeur watching the screen. The ending will surprise you and the movie will delight you.
What could have been a fine short story became an endless film that should be avoided. The acting of Brian Cox is universally accepted as brilliant and some critics forgive the ridiculous lengthy story because of that acting. One of his best TV movies, done when he was much younger, is “The Lost Language of Cranes” in which he plays a father and husband who recognizes that he has for years denied his bisexuality and goes looking for a homosexual liaison, and what that does to his family and, of course, to him. It is probably available on video and is definitely worth seeing.
The story is simple. Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox) lives alone with his dog, Red, a mutt. Avery owns a general store in a small town. One day, he goes fishing and the tale begins. Three young boys, adolescents, two of them brothers, rob him and, one of them shoots and kills Red. Avery wants justice, which is denied him by the town sheriff. The wealthy father of the two brothers says he believes his sons, as does the father of the third boy. What follows is revenge and an unbelievable effort to achieve that goal.
Good acting can take a modest script and improve it, perhaps do the same for a bad script, but not so for a truly ridiculous script which is what this is.