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The Human Stain

3.8 out of 5 stars 194 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Academy Award(R) winners Anthony Hopkins (1991 Best Actor, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) and Nicole Kidman (2002 Best Actress, THE HOURS) along with Gary Sinise (FORREST GUMP) and Ed Harris (THE HOURS) star in the provocative mystery THE HUMAN STAIN. Coleman Silk (Hopkins) has a secret. A terrible 50-year-old secret that the esteemed college professor has kept hidden from everyone — including his wife, his children, and his down-and-out young lover (Kidman) — and it's about to ruin his entire life.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • A tribute to cinematograper Jean-Yves Escoffier

Product Details

  • Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Wentworth Miller
  • Directors: Robert Benton
  • Writers: Nicholas Meyer, Philip Roth
  • Producers: Andre Lamal, Bob Weinstein, Eberhard Kayser, Gary Lucchesi, Harvey Weinstein
  • Format: AC-3, Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Miramax
  • DVD Release Date: July 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001XAPX8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,870 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Human Stain" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sheila Chilcote-Collins VINE VOICE on September 28, 2004
Format: DVD
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.
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Benton (of "Kramer vs. Kramer" or "Places in the Heart" acclaim) has always made movies with themes on the subtlest emotional vectors.
If you've read the marvellous but somewhat un-adaptable book by the same name (Phillip Roth's "The Human Stain") you'll know what I am talking about and in that case, watch the movie without any expectations of seeing a loyal adaptation because this isn't.
If you are not familiar with Roth's book, the movie's spinal theme may be racial prejudice, but it is really the story of a man deciding, late in life, to love the unknown what is beyond books, pride, even self. To learn that lesson is to turn a stain into a blessing.
Stylistically, I felt the theme could have been dealt with in a somewhat smarter way. Without giving too much away, the "scandal" at the heart of the movie really gets very little screen time which helps diminish its importance in comparison with Coleman's past. But we see so little of it that it belittles its own thematic importance, and the movie spends a great deal of energy setting up storylines and elements that get little eventual payoff.
This is why I say the novel was a bit difficult to adapt. Following Coleman's life all the way along, not just its beginning and end, could have made the movie work better as a movie; so could exposing his secret to the world of the film instead of just to the audience. At one point, Coleman's sister says doing just that would have instantly cleared up all the scandal and misunderstanding. Wrong. It would have made everything much more complicated, much more textured, much less black-and-white. As it is, we are left with a movie about two people whose lives have already ended clinging to each other for comfort.
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Format: DVD
So much of movie watching has to do with the hype, and therefore, expectations, surrounding a film. Since I had not heard much of this movie, I was surprised to find such an all star ensemble in an unheralded film. So I had the pleasure of simply watching it with no expectations, no book to compare it with, etc. The result was a compelling story of twisted lives coming to grips with themselves and their pasts. Nicole Kidman has to be one of the greatest actors of our generation, since she plays her white trailer trash role to perfection, accent and all. Anthony Hopkins use of subtle expression and understatement add tension and depth to the film. If you like complex, interwoven stories with good characters, you will like this film.
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Format: DVD
This is a film that is a masterpiece not only for what it says but in the way it says it.

We have a man who looks white but is black, pretends to be a Jew, and lives a life of deception. We have a woman with a background that gives her every advantage but she is destroyed because she was molested as a child due to her ravishing beauty. At the very moment when these two finally find peace in each other's arms they are wiped out by the insanity of evil.

Coleman's story unfolds in a series of perplexing flashbacks that leaves the viewer confounded until we finally discover that Coleman Silk and the black boxer are one and the same. Faunia's story is equally confusing. It is unreasonable that this utterly gorgeous young woman is so casually willing to give herself sexually to a rejected Viagra dependant old man. Why is she merely scraping out a living for herself sweeping floors and feeding cattle when you sense that she has so much more to offer? What horror has brought her to this state of despair? As her story unfolds in her final soliloquy with a caged crow we find that she is so haunted by the blame she feels for the accidental death of her children, while she was distracted with a lover, that she is suicidal, emotionally detached, and devastated.

Into this mix vengeance pursues Faunia in the form of her ex-husband, a tortured Viet Nam vet for whom killing has become a casual exercise. Lester Farley is a clever mixture of blind fate and conscious hate that only the writer, Zuckerman, ultimately understands and reveals to the world.
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