out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
The Human Stain
|*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
Buy movie posters!