The Human Stain


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Rating: R

Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk
Nicole Kidman as Faunia Farley
Ed Harris as Lester Farley
Gary Sinise as Nathan Zuckerman
Wentworth Miller as Young Coleman Silk
Jacinda Barrett as Steena Paulsson
Harry J. Lennix as Mr. Silk
Clark Gregg as Nelson Primus
Anna Deavere Smith as Mrs. Silk
Lizan Mitchell as Ernestine
Kerry Washington as Ellie
Phyllis Newman as Iris Silk
Margo Martindale as Psychologist
Ron Canada as Herb Kebble
Mili Avital as Young Iris

Special Features:

“A Tribute To Jean Yves Escoffier” Cinematographer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 106 Minutes

This film is based on the novel by Philip Roth.

When Professor Coleman Silk is accused of racism by his rivals at a small college, he resigns in anger and frustration. To make matters worse, his wife dies from heart failure after getting worked up about the incident. With his world shattered, Silk retreats to a lake cabin where he continues to fume. He attempts to get his neighbor, writer Nathan Zuckerman, to write a book about the incident, but he soon relents. Instead the two form a close friendship that helps them both overcome their personal tragedies.

The intellectual Silk also falls for Faunia Farley, a young, uneducated, disturbed woman. Despite having little in common, Silk falls in love with this kindred broken spirit. As they get to know each other, Silk recalls his troubled past where he was alienated from his friends, family, and loves. Unfortunately, Faunia’s psychotic ex-husband stalks the two and threatens to destroy Silk’s newfound happiness. Will he stand by Faunia and fight for his last love?

The Human Stain is rated R for language and sexuality/nudity.

The Movie:
I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Human Stain when it arrived. On the one hand, it had probably one of the worst movie titles I’ve ever heard. (‘The Human Stain’ makes me think of skid marks in underwear.) On the other hand, it featured some of my favorite actors – Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinese, and Ed Harris. But on the down side the trailers ruined most of the movie. Throw on top of that the fact that it’s a dark, depressing character drama and not even the stellar cast could make this movie enjoyable for me.

The Human Stain is the kind of movie that actors love to be a part of. It features a lot of tortured characters that get to scream, yell, and act emotional. While that’s the sort of stuff that Academy Award winning performances are made of, it’s not the kind of stuff that I personally enjoy. Being a moviegoer that primarily loves popcorn flicks, I find that I generally go to the movies to be entertained, not depressed. And The Human Stain is a really depressing movie. Every character in the film is depressed, tortured, or otherwise put through emotional hell at one point or another. It’s a bit intense and not for you if you’re looking for some light entertainment.

The script is pretty good. The story jumps back and forth in time and features Silk as both a young man and an older man. (I personally found the less star powered tales from his youth to be more interesting.) There is also some pretty good dialogue offered. However, it has some problems. It asks the audience to take some pretty big leaps in believability. First of all, we’re asked to believe that Anthony Hopkins is a light skinned black person. (And that secret was ruined in the trailers early on, another bad mark against The Human Stain.) Believing Hopkins is black makes about as much sense as believing he’s Hispanic. (Zorro, anyone?) As much as I like Hopkins, someone else should have been cast as Silk. The second big leap in logic is the fact that Silk, a highly educated older professor, would fall for an uneducated, psychologically tortured character like Faunia. I can’t see the two falling for each other under many real world circumstances. And any time a character in the film suggests that it has something to do with sex, Silk flies into a rage. Well, seeing as how most of the time they are only shown in bed together, that seems like the only explanation. They certainly don’t seem to have any other believable connection. My final gripe on the script is that it repeatedly mentions the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewenski scandal. It seemed to be trying to offer some sort of commentary on the subject, but I never quite figured out what it was. It seemed to be saying that the whole incident was trivial, but I wasn’t sure.

Despite not being black, Anthony Hopkins does a pretty good job as Coleman Silk. He has no problem portraying the intellectual side of the character. He also doesn’t seem to have any problem playing the horny old man side, either. Nicole Kidman goes through an impressive trailer trash transformation as Faunia Farley. Kidman is good at playing the tortured soul and that’s what she does here (along with having a surprising number of nude scenes). Ed Harris is also good at playing the psychotic Lester Farley while Gary Sinise plays the straight man and narrator as Nathan Zuckerman. However, I was very much impressed with Wentworth Miller as Young Coleman Silk. He imitated Hopkins fairly well and he’s a handsome young actor who I could see taking on larger roles. I found the scenes where he turns his back on his family and race to be the best of the movie.

The Human Stain is also a good looking film. The backgrounds and sets are beautiful and the camera flatters all of the actors. A good film score also helps to elevate the film. It’s fortunate that The Human Stain had these things going for it along with the excellent cast, because otherwise it would even worse. In the end the excellent cast helps raise the quality up a bit, but not enough to sell me on it.

The Extras:
There are only two extras included on the DVD:

Behind-The-Scenes Feature – This is your standard behind the scenes features. It has interviews with the cast and crew, behind the sense footage, etc. It is pretty short, but it covers most of what you’d want to know about the making of the film. There’s not much else noteworthy here.

“A Tribute To Jean Yves Escoffier” Cinematographer – Escoffier died during or after the shooting of The Human Stain. This is a brief tribute to him. It shows a number of clips from the films he worked on, though it’s mainly The Crow 2 and The Human Stain. I guess these were the only ones they could get the rights to. (He also worked on Nurse Betty, Good Will Hunting, and numerous French films.) It’s a nice gesture to include this tribute, but it’s brief and not as interesting as other features they could have included.

The Bottom Line:
I’d only recommend this movie to fans of character dramas and die hard fans of Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman. Mainstream audiences will probably be turned off by the dark tone of the film.