The Man From Elysian Fields

on September 27, 2002 by Susan Green
   The whole is less than the sum of its wonderful bon mots in "The Man From Elysian Fields," a strange tale directed by George Hickenlooper about a struggling Southern California writer who trades his integrity/soul for filthy lucre. Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) has a first novel in the remainder bin, little money in the bank and an agent who thinks his new manuscript about migrant workers is unpublishable. Dena Tiller (Julianna Margulies) believes in her husband and is willing to live on pennies until his ship comes in. But when Byron meets Luther Fox (Mick Jagger), who seems to harbor some sympathy for the devil, he is tempted to earn big bucks as a male escort.

   Fox operates Elysian Fields, an agency that caters to lonely, wealthy married women. ("Only women?" Byron asks warily. "Call me old-fashioned," replies the wily Rolling Stone, sporting an odd upswept hairdo and suits that look several sizes too big for his slinky body.) A fellow escort (rocker Michael Des Barres) complains that one of his clients insisted that he suck her toes, but Byron lands the lovely Andrea Allcott (Olivia Williams), wife of an impotent Pulitzer Prize-wining author named Tobias (James Coburn). The couple lures him into sexual and literary quicksand.

   Whenever Coburn or Jagger are on screen, the film springs to life. (Byron whines that he'd felt safe from seduction because the clients were married. Luther snaps back: "I didn't say happily. You'd better learn to listen for adjectives.") When not serving as a straight man for Jagger's zingers, Garcia--whether paired with Margulies or Williams--gives a largely solipsistic performance. Starring Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Mick Jagger, James Coburn, Olivia Williams, Michael Des Barres and Anjelica Huston. Directed by George Hickenlooper. Written by Jayson Philip Lasker. Produced by Donald Zuckerman. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 104 min

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