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The Human Stain (2003)

La Couleur du mensonge (France), Der Menschliche Makel (Germany)

How far would you go to escape the past?

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

I just had the peculiar experience of watching a screening of ‘The Human Stain’ in a theatre where I was the only person in the entire room. Thinking back, it was one more audience member than this film deserves.

Set in 1998, this pompous big screen adaptation of a Philip Roth novel puts Anthony Hopkins into the role of Uni prof Coleman Silk. No problems so far, but these next couple of plot points might require you to suspend your disbelief just a teensy-weensy bit. First off, he has a secret – namely that he’s actually black. Yes, we know he’s Anthony Hopkins, and Anthony Hopkins, as a general rule, is not black. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He’s white. White, as in not black. This isn’t exactly what you’d call a grey area. Anthony Hopkins is definitely white. I’m 100% sure of it.

Next point to have you scratching your noggin is his ability in the pulling department. He goes out in his car one day, gives a lift to a stranded woman (Nicole Kidman), and ends up being invited up to her roadside hovel for some rumpy-pumpy. Okay, we get the impression that Kidders’ character here isn’t exactly the most choosy of ladies – but Anthony Hopkins? Wrinkly old white man Anthony Hopkins? The word “baloney” doesn’t even begin to describe how ridiculous this whole thing is.

Of course, it’s all supposed to be deadly serious. Silk loses his job after being accused of racism by bosses who for some strange reason don’t know he’s actually black himself (can’t think why that might be – maybe because he’s clearly NOT?). And, just in case we’re not taking it entirely seriously, there’s some cringe-worthy melodrama thrown into the bargain along with a couple of references to Greek tragedy. If it’s all starting to sound a bit on the pretentious side, it’s because it is. In fact, it resides so far up its own botty that there were times when I thought I was watching a set of bowels.

You might be tempted to see it by what is, on paper, an impressive cast. Don’t be. Oh yeah, these guys are decent actors – we all know that. But, just as a football team can seem to have all the best players in the world but fail to gel on the pitch, ‘The Human Stain’ is a film bereft of chemistry and therefore deserving of relegation. Going by the attendances it’s getting, it’s already fitting that analogy quite nicely.

It's Got: Nicole Kidman dropping her drawers like they’re going out of fashion.

It Needs: Heavy duty stain-remover.


Thankfully this particular stain isn’t permanent – try to ignore it and it’ll go away.