Take an all-star cast, a book written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the director of the classic Kramer vs. Kramer and what do you get? Why, one of the most dreadfully dull movies ever to grace the silver screen.
The Human Stain is about an aging professor (Sir Anthony Hopkins), who, after being fired for allegedly making racial remarks about two students he had never seen, has a love affair with a beautiful younger woman (Nicole Kidman). Unfortunately for him, she has a psychotic ex-husband (Ed Harris) who took one too many bombshells in Vietnam. Gary Sinise also stars. With that cast (three Oscar winners and an Oscar nominee) and a plot like that, you have to be out of your mind no to be intrigued, right? I sure was fooled.
The Human Stain is one of the most disappointing movies to come along in a long, long time. The cast is decent enough, but none of them really ever get to flex their muscles. It is hard to really connect with Hopkins, Kidman and especially Harris (of course, the movie never tries to make a claim that we should get to know him), and I have no clue why Sinise had a character at all.
Furthermore, the pure execution of the film leaves little to be desired for. The Human Stain could have worked as an erotic drama-thriller, except that it fails in all three departments. Most disappointing is how director Robert Benton fails so incredibly at even squeaking out a moment of sexiness from Kidman. For some reason, she just isn't sexy in the movie; perhaps it is because the sex scenes are so dull or that her character isn't even remotely interesting, but, regardless, she did not do a damn thing for me. Neither did Hopkins, by the way...
The Human Stain jumps back and forth between the present and the past, and while the past story does have its intriguing moments, the transitions never really make the plot overall very cohesive. While there obviously is a big connection (the main character), I never really felt as though the two stories were working hand-in-hand with one another; you could watch just one and not know that the other ever even existed.
The Human Stain is an all around boring movie, with little to be desired despite its terrific cast. I won't even bother to think of some way to make a pun on the title.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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