A/V Room









The Human Stain - US reaction

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 American tragedy'.

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 ice'.

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'.

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z