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With: Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Alex Wolff, Peter Sarsgaard, Maya Hawke, Betty Gabriel, Paul Sparks, Aasif Mandvi, Fred Hechinger
Written by: Oren Moverman, based on a novel by Stephen Amidon
Directed by: Marc Meyers
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 97
Date: 03/20/2020

Human Capital (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bike Wrack

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a 2004 novel by Stephen Amidon, this overall engaging multi-thread drama is intricately designed and boldly acted, though its form may be a little outsized compared to its actual content.

In Human Capital, a bicyclist is struck and fatally wounded on a dark road by a hit-and-run driver. The events leading up to that night are told from three different points of view. A struggling real estate agent, Drew (Liev Schreiber), learns that his second wife (Betty Gabriel) is pregnant. He drops off his teen daughter Shannon (Maya Hawke) at the sprawling mansion where her boyfriend Jamie (Fred Hechinger) lives.

There, Drew meets Jamie's father, successful venture capitalist Quint Manning (Peter Sarsgaard). Drew asks Quint if he can invest in an upcoming opportunity, but in order to raise the necessary $300,000, he borrows and lies. Then, Quint's wife Carrie (Marisa Tomei) has fallen in love with an old theater and wishes to fix it up, but she learns that their family's finances are in serious trouble. Finally, Shannon and Jamie secretly break up and she falls for the damaged, withdrawn Ian (Alex Wolff).

Adapted by Oren Moverman (The Messenger, Time Out of Mind) and directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer), Human Capital (which is also a remake of a 2013 Italian movie) adopts a serious tone to the story, rather than building any kind of suspenseful "whodunit" out of the bicyclist's death. But since it has other interesting stories to tell, this approach works fairly well.

The chapters on Drew's financial woes and Shannon's blooming romance contain strong emotional beats, but the chapter on Carrie's attempts to do something great with the old theater seem stretched too thin, a complicated means to a not-very-interesting end. And, ultimately, the theme of "human capital," the satirical question of what human beings in this story are actually worth, doesn't offer much of sting. Instead, it feels more like a grim resignation. But the strong, memorable parts of Human Capital outweigh those that don't work well, and it's worth seeing.

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