The Human Stain

Director: Robert Benton
Year Released: 2003
Rating: 0.5

After being criticized for using what some considered a racial insult in class ("spooks?"), Professor Anthony Hopkins starts down his own steady road of self-destruction, losing his job, spending time playing games with bland novelist Zuckerman (Gary Sinise) and sleeping with the local janitor (Nicole Kidman). The film is almost completely implausible from the get-go (I doubt that anyone in college in 1998 would have objected to the word ... but students are pretty dense these days, so you never know) and also unfathomably heavy-handed, like when it leans really heavily on its racial commentary or has Kidman talking to a crow (apparently she does it quite often) or shows youthful Hopkins boxing another African American in the ring (to confront his own 'blackness'). Like with Cold Mountain, 2003's other cinematic mangling of what's considered a fine work of literature, the symbolism that works on the page - not to mention the ability to hide the 'twist' (we can plainly see that neither Hopkins nor his young doppelganger are even a smidgen 'dark') - doesn't translate to the screen. [Confession Time: Yes, the 0.5 is for two stripteases - one by Nicole Kidman and one by The Real World's Jacinda Barrett. Sorry for my lack of professionalism, etc.]