George Hickenlooper directs this psychological drama about an impoverished writer lost in a world of money, power, and male escorts. Though happily married with a young child, Byron Tiller (Andy Garcia) is struggling to make ends meet as a novelist. His last work, called “Hitler’s Child,” had an ignoble run in the bookstore bargain bins and his editor is not interested in his latest work about migrant workers. One day, he is approached by a dapper Brit named Luther Fox (Mick Jagger) who actually read Tiller’s last opus. Luther explains that he runs an escort agency named Elysian Fields, which caters to rich women looking for intelligent companionship. Desperate for any kind of income source, Tiller takes the job while keeping the whole thing a secret from his loving wife (Julianna Margulies). He soon is rubbing elbows with the beautiful wife (Olivia Williams) of an aging Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Gradually, Tiller finds himself immersed in this strange new world that he cannot quite understand, much less explain to his spouse.
“The Man from Elysian Fields” is one of the best films of the year. Featuring a perfect, beautifully literate script by first-timer Phillip Jayson Lasker, and directed with a clear and unobtrusive style by the remarkable George Hickenlooper, Fields is a richly human drama, a complex psychological study of man’s flaws and his utter desperate sense of humanity. Few films take the viewer on such a profound character journey, as is the dark road travelled by Byron Tiller, a man who gives up his soul only to search for it in the pages of his own prose. A wonderfully engrossing study of redemption and the human psyche, the film is full of extraordinary performances. Garcia is superb in this film, capturing the intricacies and subtleties of his character. Jagger is a revelation, the most tragic figure in this tale of human demons, a figure who acts as a kind of subversive moralist, and Jagger is simply magnificent. James Coburn has never been better, and both Julianna Margulies and the breathtaking Olivia Williams both give luminous performances.
Beautifully shot on location in Los Angeles, The Man from Elysian Fields is a haunting, profound and deeply moving masterwork, the kind of film rarely seen in an industry that thrives on mediocrity. This is a film not to be missed.