Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Movie Review - The Human Stain

Director: Robert Benton
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris
Year: 2003

I'm not sure how this film passed me by.  I guess eleven years ago I was in a much different place and movies weren't my life, but this seems like one that would have caught my attention.  After all, look at the cast.  Four Class A celebrities coming together for a dark drama, a team of talent bringing a bestseller to life.  The novel was written in 2000 by Philip Roth and had much success; I'd be interested in going back to read it.  I wonder how the plot comes across on paper, because on film it quickly became a depressing story about how depressed people depressed other people.  It was heavy from the very first scene on, never let up, and in the end was a bit much to take.  Perhaps being able to put down the book would allow readers to take a little break; I sure could have used one while watching the movie.

The film is narrated by a character named Nathan Zuckerman, a lonely writer whose divorces have driven him to a life of solitude in a secluded cabin.  His only friend, and the topic of his latest book, is Coleman Silk.  Coleman's story is a complicated one.  He's an elderly classics professor who has recently been fired and labeled a racist.  His wife dies, he loses his job, he's the town pariah, and Zuckerman is the the only person he can talk to.  That is, until he meets Faunia.  She has her own problems, including a sordid past, anger issues, and an ex-husband who won't leave her alone.  Coleman & Faunia begin an affair, combining their baggage into one miserable load, but even their collective issues pale in comparison to the one secret left between them.  Coleman's past hides a truth that even he can't face, a lie that has been buried for fifty years.  Can their late-forged love stand the strain of existence, or will it collapse under the weight of so much pain?

Good god that's a tiresome movie.  At the very beginning something awful happens, followed by multiple flashbacks of horribly sad events that you know are just going to lead to an equally depressing climax.  It was just too much to take.  Every character was living a life of pointlessness, a desperate attempt at happiness or security that always fell short.  And then, as the film progresses, we learn why everyone is so sad, but that knowledge never leads to any sort of relief, the story is continually dark & heavy with no levity whatsoever.  The actors all did a fine job, were very convincing, held up well in the face of what must have been difficult scenes to shoot.  But while they might not be at fault, they were the instruments of torture, and I can't exactly forgive them for that.  The film had clear points to make, an interesting topic, and strong actors to portray it.  However, it was much too heavy, becoming unbearably sad, with never a moment to breathe.  I'd give the book a chance because the story was solid, but I'd hesitate to recommend the film.

My rating: ☆ ☆

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