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Phillip Roth's Final Trilogy Tale Comes To Life On Screen
on September 28, 2004
Phillip Roth's final tale in his trilogy, "The Human Stain" is set in the summer of The Year Of Our Lord, 1998. Otherwise known as "Impeachment Summer", during which the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky accusations took place, The Starr Report was released, and the whole sordid story of the infamous stained dress was on the lips of everyone, so to speak.
The film is told in flashback sequences with the narrator of the tale, writer and friend of main character, Coleman Silk's. His name is Nathan Zuckerman (a fabulous Gary Sinese). Incidentally, the character of Nathan Zuckerman is the author, Phillip Roth's alter-ego and is throughout the trilogy of novels.
Coleman Silk, played adeptly by Sir Anthony Hopkins, is a 71 year-old college professor at small New England Athena College. Coleman is wrongfully accused of racial slurs against a couple of absent pupils and loses his tenured position. This shocking news sends his beloved wife into sickness and before long, she succumbs...
If only his family, friends and all the people that Coleman Silk has touched throughout their lives knew the REAL story, such charges would have never been brought about in the first place.
Silk gets lonely and depressed quite quickly, finds the wonderful drug just produced by the name of Viagra and meets the illiterate but beautiful school janitor, Faunia Farley, played by Nicole Kidman. Faunia might be illiterate but she has graduated with honors from "The School Of Hard Knocks", both figuratively and literally by her Vietnam vet abusive husband Lester, played excellently by Ed Harris. Coleman and Faunia have a torrid affair with the whole New England town buzzing about the goings on. As they get closer and share with one another, Faunia's past is almost as shocking as Coleman's. In the final scenes of the film, all secrets are exposed...
Many critics said that the movie script itself was a masterpiece but it was grossly miscast with Hopkins and Kidman in the main roles. I disagree only because there are very few actors that could genuinely and convincingly portray the characters, let alone, carry a heavy drama such as this. The only actor that I could come up with for a recast on Coleman would be Frank Langella, in part because the physical characteristics of Coleman could have been a bit more believable to the viewer.
I must also mention the two actors who play an integral role in the flashback sequences of Coleman's youth. A terrific Wentworth Miller as Young Coleman Silk and an adequate Jacinda Barrett (from MTV's Real World London Cast) in a nice turn as young Coleman's college days lover, Steena Paulsson.
Once watching the movie, you will understand the many significant meanings of the title, "The Human Stain". Not only the stain of the original sin into which all of us are born, but the stain of hate, hurt, pain, racism, pacifism and yes, even love and death.
I highly recommend "The Human Stain" despite it's theatrical release mixed reviews and unfortunate lackluster box office draw.