(2008)3.5Derek ArmstrongFilms about tragic love affairs -- or those that the participants consider tragic, which is not the same thing -- have their work cut out for them. For the audience to feel a similar sense of urgency/melancholy, the characters must be interesting, their tragedy springing from a relatable fatal flaw, or events beyond their control. However, when the characters are generally narcissistic and dull, and hold no sway over our sympathies, a film like Elegy results. The movie starts out encouragingly enough, with Ben Kingsley perfectly cast as a famous university professor and overall brilliant thinker, who sublimates his attraction to his female students until semester's end. He's a rascal, but at least he has rules to keep things generally appropriate. Kingsley's narration feels like it will bring us inside the mind of this academic, whose bald virility seems to be just one of his charismatic attributes. But we never learn what drives this man, beyond a general sense of trying to stay young, so this "exciting intellectual" is a dramatic dud in terms of making us care about him. Similarly, Penélope Cruz is just a cipher in the role of the exotic Cuban-American student who happens to be as deep as she is beautiful. There's no spark to suggest anything meaningful passing between them, so a string of cultural-minded dates and walks on the beach, interspersed with bedroom sessions, does not convince us that their inevitably doomed union is worth monumentalizing. Director Isabel Coixet has plenty of interesting actors on hand, who are plenty equipped to challenge the audience with complex characterizations. But Dennis Hopper, Peter Sarsgaard, and indie queen Patricia Clarkson, whose very presence is supposed to signify depth, also can't accomplish the task that bested Kingsley and Cruz. As such, Elegy becomes tedious long before its maudlin conclusion.