The Human Stain (film)
|The Human Stain|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Benton|
|Produced by||Tom Rosenberg
|Screenplay by||Nicholas Meyer
|Based on||The Human Stain by
|Music by||Rachel Portman|
|Editing by||Christopher Tellefsen|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Release dates||October 31, 2003|
|Running time||106 minutes|
The Human Stain is a 2003 American drama film directed by Robert Benton. The screenplay by Nicholas Meyer is based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Philip Roth. The film stars Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman.
In the late 1990s, writer Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise) has settled in a lakeside New England cabin following his second divorce and a battle with prostate cancer. His quiet life is interrupted by Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins), a former dean and professor of classics at local Athena College, who was forced to resign after being accused of making racist remarks in class. Coleman's wife died suddenly following the scandal, and he wants to avenge his loss of career and companion by writing a book about the events with Nathan's assistance.
The project is placed on the back burner when Coleman has an affair with Faunia Farley (Nicole Kidman), a considerably younger, semi-literate woman who supports herself by working at menial jobs, including at the college. Their relationship is threatened by the faculty members who forced Coleman from his job and by Faunia's stalker ex-husband Lester (Ed Harris), a mentally unbalanced Vietnam War veteran who blames her for the deaths of their children in an accident. Flashbacks of Coleman's life reveal to the audience his secret—he is an African American who has passed as a Jewish man for most of his adult life.
- Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk
- Nicole Kidman as Faunia Farley
- Gary Sinise as Nathan Zuckerman
- Ed Harris as Lester Farley
- Wentworth Miller as Young Coleman Silk
- Jacinda Barrett as Steena Paulsson
- Mimi Kuzyk as Delphine Roux
- Clark Gregg as Nelson Primus
- Anna Deavere Smith as Mrs. Silk
- Phyllis Newman as Iris Silk
- Mili Avital as Young Iris
- Harry Lennix as Mr. Silk
The film grossed $5,381,227 in the US and $13,998,160 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $19,379,387.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 41% of 148 professional critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.5 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "Though the acting is fine, the leads are miscast, and the story is less powerful on screen than on the page."
In his review in the New York Times, A.O. Scott called it "an honorable B+ term paper of a movie: sober, scrupulous and earnestly respectful of its literary source . . . The filmmakers explicate Mr. Roth's themes with admirable clarity and care and observe his characters with delicate fondness, but they cannot hope to approximate the brilliance and rapacity of his voice, which holds all the novel's disparate elements together. Without the active intervention of Mr. Roth's intelligence . . . the story fails to cohere . . . At its best - which also tends to be at its quietest - The Human Stain allows you both to care about its characters and to think about the larger issues that their lives represent. Its deepest flaw is an inability to link those moments of empathy and insight into a continuous drama, to suggest that the characters' lives keep going when they are not on screen."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "We have to suspend disbelief over the casting, but that's easier since we can believe the stories of these people. Not many movies probe into matters of identity or adaptation. Most movie characters are like Greek gods and comic book heroes: We learn their roles and powers at the beginning of the story, and they never change. Here are complex, troubled, flawed people, brave enough to breathe deeply and take one more risk with their lives."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle called it "a mediocre movie . . . [that] falls victim to a fatal lack of narrative drive, suspense and drama. Kidman and Hopkins are wrong for their roles, and that, combined with a pervading inevitability, cuts the film off from any sustained vitality. The result is something admirable but lifeless."
David Stratton of Variety described it as "an intelligent adaptation of Philip Roth's arguably unfilmable novel powered by two eye-catching performances . . . A key problem Benton is unable to avoid is that Hopkins and Miller don't look (or talk) the least bit like one another. Miller, who gives a strong, muted performance, convinces as a light-skinned African-American in a way Hopkins never does, which is not to suggest that the Welsh-born actor doesn't give another intelligent, powerful portrayal. It's just that the believability gap looms large."
In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers said, "Hopkins and Kidman . . . are both as mesmerizing as they are miscast . . . The Human Stain is heavy going. It's the flashes of dramatic lightning that make it a trip worth taking."
Awards and nominations
- American Film Institute Award for Best Movies of 2003 (winner)
- Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress (Anna Deavere Smith, winner)
- Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Smith, winner)
- Black Reel Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Wentworth Miller, nominee)
- Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance (Miller, nominee)
- Official website
- The Human Stain at the Internet Movie Database
- The Human Stain at Box Office Mojo
- The Human Stain at Rotten Tomatoes
- Anthony Hopkins interview
- Movie stills