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The Human Stain

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Human Stain

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman
Director: Robert Benton
Rated: R
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Ron Canada, John Cenatiempo, Anne Dudek, John Finn, Charles Gray, Mimi Kuzyk, Kerry Washington

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

It's easy to see why there were high Oscar hopes for this edgy romantic thriller. Anthony Hopkins is Coleman Silk, a distinguished classics professor and dean of faculty at a small New England college, who finds his personal and professional life shattered when he, inadvertently, utters a racial slur. Seething with rage, he barges into the life of a reclusive novelist (Gary Sinese), imploring him to write about this injustice. Then Silk launches into a passionate affair with an abused, illiterate young woman (Nicole Kidman) who milks cows, sorts mail and works on the janitorial crew. When her crazed, bitter ex-husband (Ed Harris) threatens them, Silk reveals a secret about his family that he has harbored for his entire adult life.

Adapted by Nicholas Meyer from Philip Roth's award-winning novel, the tragic morality tale is set against the politically-incorrect background of the Clinton sex scandal. And race is used as a metaphor for the rejection of the past, a theme that appears throughout Roth's body of work.

Director Robert Benton's off-beat casting backfires. Both Hopkins and Kidman are ill-suited to their roles. While they depict the gentle May-December romance superbly, it's disconcerting to see Hopkins' piercing blue eyes covered by brown contact lenses and Kidman's beauty is far too delicate and aristocratic. Although Wentworth Miller, who plays Silk as a young man, is actually bi-racial, he lacks the necessary charisma - which dilutes all the flashback sequences - although they're superbly photographed by Jean-Yves Escoffier, who died several months ago. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Human Stain" is an uneven, slow-paced, heavily secretive 7, and the title refers to the indelible mark each individual makes on the world around us.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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