MIRAMAX has released “THE HUMAN STAIN,” a film that by its credits alone, shouts “POWERFUL!” Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman star. Director Robert Benton, responsible for some of the best films of the ‘80s is at the helm, and Nicholas Meyer(no slouch himself)adapted the novel by Philip Roth(again, no slouch), so why is the sum so less much than its parts?
From the beginning, we’re made aware in the narration that Hopkins is a Jewish professor. In the opening moments, we also find him to have been accused of making a racist comment, that is completely obvious was no such thing. His wife dies from a heart attack, immediately after being told of his career problems brought on by the charge. We jump ahead and find that he’s living a non-eventful, existence of early retirement and loneliness. This changes when he falls for a tortured, but alluring woman, Nicole Kidman. As the story unfolds, slowly, we find out more about Hopkins’ character’s secret past, as well as Kidmans’, but none of the revelations are really that startling, and the one that’s supposed to be the most important, relating to the professor’s ethnicity, is hard to believe with Hopkins in the role. The acting is great. Even the supporting cast is top-notch. But, powerful performances, skillful direction, haunting music, and hypnotic imagery can’t fix a story that never captures its audience. Add to this, flashbacks and flash-forwards, and it’s confusing, without much sense of a message. It’s ultimately, just depressing!
MIRAMAX has preserved the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. After an opening sequence that’s extremely grainy, the image improves. Colors are solid and detail is impressive. Fleshtones appear natural, for the most part.
MIRAMAX has presented a DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 mix. Surrounds are virtually non-existent. There is some minor separation in the front. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion.
Several trailers are included, as well as a short tribute to the film’s cinematographer who died before the film was finished.