Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Anna Deavere Smith, Wentworth Miller, Jacinda Barrett, Harry J. Lennix, Clark Gregg, Kerry Washington
Written by: Nicholas Meyer, based on Philip Roth's novel
Directed by: Robert Benton
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 106
Date: 08/29/2003

The Human Stain (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Silk Road

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Philip Roth's 2000 novel becomes one of this year's big Oscar hopefuls for Miramax, a wintry cross between a morality tale and a mystery. It's not a great film by any means, but humanist director Robert Benton (Nobody's Fool) and veteran screenwriter Nicholas Meyer (Time After Time, certain Star Trek films) manage to keep it alive and moving. Professor Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) loses his job, begins a relationship with a sexy younger woman (Nicole Kidman) and ruminates about his mysterious past. Wentworth Miller plays the young Silk in flashback, and though no physical or spiritual connection exists between he and Hopkins, Benton's smooth, quiet direction fixes the holes and entices excellent performances from most cast members, including Gary Sinise as Silk's writer friend. Though other cast members (Ed Harris, Anna Deavere Smith) don't always seem quite in sync.

DVD Details: There's no question that The Human Stain was overhyped and hence underperformed, but it's neither as good nor as bad as all that would imply. It's very much worth a look. The disc comes with a "behind the scenes" special, and a tribute to the great cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier, whose last film this was. The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and in widescreen (1.85-to-1) with an optional French language track, plus optional French and Spanish subtitles.

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