There is a somber and slightly saddened feeling around me as I write this review. In discussing the film “The Man From Elysian Fields” I wanted to talk about the poor script, I wanted to talk about yet another poor and unconvincing performance by Andy Garcia, but I cannot. Early Monday morning, the highly acclaimed actor and supporting role of the film, James Coburn, died of a heart attack.
This marks the end of a career that I have personally loved watching. From “The Magnificent Seven” to “The Great Escape” to “Affliction” and “Maverick” (and 122 more film credits) James Coburn has done nothing but improve with age. He more recently made a run at the children’s market playing the voice of a character in “Monster’s Inc.”
His harsh, stern voice with a face that he could make cold and intimidating to helpless, pulling sympathy from the crowd, this man was among the greatest actors we have had the pleasure to watch in our time. How is “The Man From Elysian Fields” as a capstone to his exceptional, glorious life and career? The film itself does not live up to what Coburn should be a part of, but his performance is the highlight of the entire feature.
This is the story of young writer Byron Tiller (Garcia) and his desperation to support his family while failing at his career. In an act of last resort he turns to Elysian Fields, a male escort service (basically male whores) to get some extra money. And whom do you think of when you think of a head male whore? That’s right, Mick Jagger! Seriously, Mick Jagger pulls off a surprising performance as Luther Fox, the head of the escort service.
With all of Jagger’s contributions to entertainment in his life he is now also very much involved in film with his film company Jagged Films. Not only does he have the film company but he is also a very good actor. In fact, if it were not for Coburn’s role in the film, Jagger would be the strongest performance out of the lot. I hope to see him in more films.
But as the story continues, Tiller gets involved with the service and a Pulitzer Prize winning author’s wife (Olivia Williams from “Rushmore”). The Pulitzer winner, Tobias Alcott (James Coburn), is aware of his wife’s exploits for he can no longer pleasure her and wishes for her to remain happy. And as Alcott struggles to finish his latest novel, he acquires the assistance of Tiller, who now sees and sleeps with Alcott’s wife on a regular basis.
If it sounds like a weak premise, it is. Julianna Margulies (TV’s ‘ER’), who turns out the weakest performance I have seen her in, plays Tiller’s loving wife who is driven mad with jealousy, for she suspects he is sleeping around. From there the movie just tapers off. The subplot of Tiller and the Alcott couple was entertaining and actually interesting, and as I said, Mick Jagger’s role was priceless. But as far as the script in general and Garcia’s performance, this movie should be skipped.
To finish with, Coburn gets an A. There is a depleting supply of great actors, so you should go out and rent the movies of those that recently died; Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Jason Robards and James Coburn. Do not let their past performances die off and be forgotten. And as for “The Man of Elysian Fields,” it does not live up to the names in its cast… C.