Sunday, November 09, 2003

REVIEW: The Human Stain

Seen Sunday, 9 November 2003, at 11:40am, Landmark's Kendall Square Theater, Screen #1

* * (out of four)

The Human Stain doesn't really do much wrong, but I'm not sure I really see the point of it as a movie. It's got some terrific actors - really, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise seem to be overkill for their parts - and is nicely shot. But there's also no escaping that it was adapted from a book, one which was undoubtedly able to spend much more time on each of the characters.

Anthony Hopkins's character, Coleman Silk, gets the most time. He's an interesting choice for the character, for reasons I won't get into because I think I may have enjoyed the movie more had I not known his character's secret. After a hammy beginning, his performance settles down nicely. Nicole Kidman is also strong as Faunia Farely, the janitor forty years his junior that he falls for. Nothing wrong with Harris as Faunia's ex-husband or Sinese as Nathan Zuckerman, a writer friend of Silk's.

Much of the early part of the movie seems contrived, though - Silk loses his job for calling two students who haven't shown up to class "spooks". I guess I'm ignorant, but I have never heard of that being considered a racist term. The way in which he meets Zuckerman also defies belief. And even if I bought into Wentworth Miller playing the same character as Hopkins, only 55 years younger, he seems stilted, not like a real college kid at all.

The structure also seemed off. Sinise's character narrates as if it were a book, and indeed in the end speaks about the book - The Human Stain - he is writing. Which may have worked fine, in the book. In a film, though, it's an intrusive device

I can't quite recommend The Human Stain, the film. The book may well be a different story.

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