Compiled by: Jack Foley
IT BOASTS a terrific cast (including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ed
Harris and Nicole Kidman), and an Oscar-winning director, but
it seems The Human Stain has failed to connect with US critics.
The movie opened over the October 31 weekend and drew more negative
notices than raves.
Entertainment Weekly was typical of the reaction, writing
that 'between the labors of simplifying the story for the screen
and accommodating the stardust of world-class actors, an essentially,
uniquely American tragic hero and heroine are bleached of real
While USA Today asked: "How does one even begin to
list the imperfections of The Human Stain?"
The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, noted that 'the meandering
plot is intriguing enough to suck viewers in and keep them there,
and the acting is fine, yet the story never quite gels'.
And the San Francisco Chronicle felt that it 'falls victim
to a fatal lack of narrative drive, suspense and drama'.
The Washington Post found that 'the problem is that neither
Kidman nor Hopkins seems to know what movie they are in'.
Of the more positive notices, however, of which there were a
few, the New York Times wrote that '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'.
While Variety noted that it was 'an intelligent adaptation
of Philip Roth's arguably unfilmable novel'.
Rolling Stone, meanwhile, felt that while 'The Human Stain
is heavy going, it's the flashes of dramatic lightning that make
it a trip worth taking'.
And The Chicago Tribune opined that 'The Human Stain has
those qualities we often want but rarely see in our films: intelligence
and ambition, decency and humanity, poetry and pity, fire and
Strong, too, was the New York Observer, which felt that
'the movie is fully worthy of the book, and will reach many people
who might not have enjoyed the delightful experience of gliding
through Mr. Roth's trenchant and zestful prose on the human condition'.
While the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that 'the first
hour of their movie is quite fine, at times poignant, but ultimately
the filmmakers give us a love triangle that all but erases one
of its legs'.
However, Film Journal International felt that 'one inspired
decision can't redeem either misguided casting, or a story shorn
of the framing voice that made it live'.
And the Los Angeles Times brings this round-up to a close
with the opinion that 'Benton and Mayer have gutted the novel's
uncivil, discomforting viscera - including Roth's pokes at political
correctness - and delivered an uninteresting, at times comically
inappropriate 'tasteful' story'.