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The Human Stain - Preview



Preview by: Jack Foley

WITH the heady excess of the Summer now beginning to ease a little, thoughts are beginning to turn to the Fall season in America, where many of next year's Oscar contenders begin to unveil themselves.

One of the hottest advance words is reserved for The Human Stain, however, a double-header, starring Nicole Kidman and Sir Anthony Hopkins, which looks like a pretty safe bet for great reviews.

Based on the Philip Roth novel, the film follows Anthony Hopkins' character, Coleman Silk, a light-skinned African-American professor, who has lived his professional life under the pretense of being Jewish.

When he inadvertently refers to some of his absent students as 'spooks', he finds himself caught at the centre of a racial controversy that leads to the revelation of his affair with a woman half his age, Faunia Farley (Nicole Kidman).

Even as he's getting professionally and personally discredited, Silk hangs on to the secret of his race.

According to Entertainment Weekly (EW), in its round-up of Fall movies, the killer moment comes in the form of a striptease, from Kidman, that's said to be more revealing than her dimly lit nude scene in the West End and Broadway's The Blue Room.

 

But there is also a lot to be said for the movie's timing, given that it is set against the Clinton sex scandal of 1998.

Director, Robert Benton (who has previously helmed Kramer vs Kramer, as well as directing Kidman in Bully Bathgate), says the title refers to 'the damage that human beings do to the world that we live in'.

As such, viewers will watch as the life Hopkins has created for himself is ripped apart around him, thus making for the kind of gritty material the Academy and its member seem to love.

In fact, the film looks set to deal with some pretty weighty subject material in relation to all of its characters.

Kidman's character, Faunia Farley, is also a troubled woman who finds herself stalked by her psychopathic ex-husband (Ed Harris). And as part of her research, the Oscar-winning actress spent time at women's shelters talking to domestic-abuse victims.

She told EW that she would regularly ask women the thing they really wanted said to the world through her character, to which almost all replied: ''Show that we're not dumb.''

The film also co-stars Gary Sinise as a reclusive writer who befriends Silk.

So what of its Oscar chances? Well, when you consider that Benton has already won the award, and his cast has a colossal 11 nominations and two wins among them, it's hard not to believe that this won't feature prominently.

The film opens in America on September 26, after which we will deliver a round-up of the critical opinion. It received its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend (Sept 5-7).

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