Cultural critic David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) finds his life thrown into tragic disarray by Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz), a well-mannered student who awakens a sense of sexual possessiveness in her teacher.
Odd that Cruz gets top billing in this adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal when it’s so entirely about Sir Ben’s celebrated academic, his obsession with a student and his gnawing belief that his overwhelming desire will drive her away. Cruz’s character is a blank in whose limpid eyes the camera searches in vain for what she thinks and feels. A lot more engaging are the sophisticated intimates: Patricia Clarkson, as the prof’s long-standing fuck-buddy, and Dennis Hopper as his sarcastic drinking partner. Director Coixet strives to make it affecting, but it’s even more turgid than screenwriter Nicholas Meyer’s previous Roth adaptation, The Human Stain.
While the supporting actors are engaging, the turgid screenplay lets the whole thing down.