"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

DVD Review: The Human Stain

The Human Stain is a comment on society. An incitement of the system of stupidity and illogical ideas, commonly known as 'political correctness'. The film starts out with a great sequence in which Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) is forced to quit his job, which later leads to the death of his wife, for using the word "spooks" to describe two students that haven't attended one of his classes yet. Of course, in that context; he meant 'spooks', as in ghosts, but as "spooks" is also an ethnic slur, and these students just so happened to be black, Silk is hounded for racism. In this day and age, political correctness is more a hindrance to society, than a progression; and this film sums that up perfectly.

In the story respect, this film is good. On the whole, the film could...no, actually, the film should have been great; but it isn't. One of the major reasons for this is casting. Anthony Hopkins takes the lead role; and there is nothing wrong with the film there. Hopkins is an actor of such brilliance that even when he is miscast, he still brings much to the film. Towards the start, he is hammy; but it is hard to imagine the role being played by anyone else, and that is testament to Hopkins' talent.

The big miscasting here is Nicole Kidman. Nicole is a great actress, there is no disputing that; but she isn't at home here. Nicole is, frankly, too glamorous to play her character in this movie. Her airbrushed look just doesn't suit the character and the film loses credibility there. Of course, also in 2003, Charlize Theron, another glamour-puss, took a gritty role that you wouldn't expect her to excel in and she won an Oscar for her troubles, but that same philosophy just doesn't work in this movie.

The other two lead roles in the movie go to Gary Sinese, as a novelist and Ed Harris as Kidman's ex-husband and both do well in their roles, but as they are support, their screentime is too little for them to make a real impression. Wentworth Miller, the young man that plays Coleman Silk at an earlier age deserves some credit for his performance. He isn't show-stealing, but he still excels in a role that is integral to the film.

The 'secret' that Coleman Silk is harbouring contains another swipe towards society besides the one from the earlier scene mentioned. The film seems to be keen to comment on society, but it never really takes the bull by the horns. If the messages contained within were put forward to a better standard and in a more powerful way, then the film could have really hit home and could have became the masterpiece that it obviously wants to be; but it didn't; so it isn't.

Overall, however; The Human Stain is definitely worth a watch. It is obvious that there is a good film under there, and that alone makes it worth watching. But I just can't help but think that with better handling, it could have been really great. A shame.

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