The Human Stain
The Human Staini is a sorta-decent novel by Philip Roth horribly butchered by Nicholas Meyer into a rather abominable film script.ii The net result is a bad story that tries to choke down and swallow a good story, and a good story that tries to escape from the muddy embrace and shine through the pestilential foulness of a bad story. Were you a practicing obstetric surgeon you'd know that now and again perfectly healthy neonates have to be separated, scalpel in hand, from their parasitic, not nearly as successful, poorly differentiated twins. Mutant horrors that'd have been long aborted into oblivion had not the purity of the life signals emanating from the fully formed, healthy sibling they parasitise confused the gatekeepers of the womb.
Such exactly is the situation here : the bad story is some inanity with and about no name actors toiling endlessly in a sizeable pile of naturally-identical flavoured goop - something that looks like it should have had Ben Affleck/Adam Sandler/Ben Stilleriii in it - and for its presence the only way to watch this movie is by simply skipping over all the scenes without either Hopkins or Kidman on screen.iv
But when these two are there... oh my! Oh my oh my! It's a spectacular couple, they act extremely well, they are actually a lot better together than each is apart. The characters are quite convincing, I am bereft of superlatives. His is an unapologeticv male, hers is a well trampled tramp. He is calm, and quiet, and will readily go too farvi. She is very worried, and scarred, and very scared. She affects a toughness that she does have, like any woman does havevii, but only at the center. Meanwhile, sandwiched between this hammer of affectation and the anvil of her womanhood, a little girl with a curly smile is perpetually ground into paste. Fittingly then, she carries around the ashes of her offspring, in little boxes, hidden under her bed. But other than that - she has no luggage. She travels lightly, other than that.
One thing I will say to illustrate the greatness of construction : she is transactional to the hilt, as you'd expect of someone in her crucible position. She has decided that since men pay you not as much to fuck them but to leave after, she will be forever safe from any horrors men can bring if she sacrifices, completely and dedicatedly, this particular bit of natural inclination. "I'll never stay and you'll never hurt me", says the dealmaker in her head, and so one morning when she does wake up at the site of the deed she is incensed, her pretty eyes aglare with all the sheer terror that this amulet was, in her mind, protecting her from. Terror that she knows all about, because unlike the worthless cunts that were never rapedviii, she is a beast of this world, not an imaginary "beast" of a world that "could be". Sure this particular man she slept with may be okay, says her worrymaker... but that wasn't the deal, now was it. The deal was as to specified behaviour and men in general, as a group, as an abstraction, as an unknown. As a set of endless surprises.ix As how magic thinking works.
Someone should release a cut version of this thing. Get rid of that idiotic twentysomething kid that can't even fucking look at his costar, let alone interact with her. Get rid of that monstrously ugly blonde chick with black pubic hair, what the hell is with that lip holy shit, uncanny valley central over there. Get rid of all the spurious narration and just let it be a beautiful love story, which it definitely, screamingly, flamingly is.
It's a sad but fitting comment on the fate of US "culture" that the most it can be remembered for is contributing a bunch of slag that will have to be excised off an otherwise beautiful love story.———
- 2003, by Robert Benton, with Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris (deliverer of that great monologue). [↩]
- The whole thing is constructed around the Broyard problem, even if the author denied a direct connection. Nevertheless, at issue is the choice of what ethic groups misrepresent as "a member of an ethnic group", ie, a person, to represent himself as whatever he may choose to, whether this meets or does not meet the criteria as put forth by whatever ethnic groups, which is to say whatever people making that their business.
In this case, a man born to black parents chooses to pass as white. The thing of course comes back to haunt, like any and all meaningful choices of any substance necessarily will, by the very virtue of being meaningful and substantial. Dealing with this without becoming a tacky and cliche'd piece of nonsense is perhaps easier in novel form, and at any rate Roth manages a lot better than Meyer. Admittedly this isn't saying much - so would have a drunk cow. [↩]
- " An actress...or a, uh, model...or a dancer...or a...news woman". Quite. [↩]
- And this, by the way, is severely bad news for anyone interested in postponing the decay of this smelly mess that once aspired to be recognised as a seventh art. Originally you see, painting consisted of sitting there with the master, and if he let you do a little work in a corner of a commissioned work, it'd be under his gaze and strict supervision. Similarly, shitty actors being perforce needed to swell up the ranks of the company, nevertheless their performance would occur under the close scrutiny of the good ones, and out of this a hierarchy, and therefore a community were borne. Which promoted, as all hierarchy and all hierarchy-based communities ever do, the perfection of every shithead noob dragged in by the cold weather outside - in fact most good painters in the early history of painting and most good actors in the early history of cinema, or for that matter theater were born exactly this way. Take Bacall as your example and we're wrapped up.
But then "business" considerations prevailed, and soon enough the shitty painters worked in the shitty painter quarters, separated from the good ones. Why should they be humiliated on a daily basis and as a matter of course ? That isn't... nice. Soon thereafter painting as an intellectual and aesthetic endeavour collapsed, and that is precisely and exactly what we have here : the B shitheads worked in whatever B shithead studio, their "work" was spliced together with the Hopkins-Kidman splendor as padding and well... the whole thing's going to hell in a handbasket. Not only will I simply cut out the padding and be left with something unmarketable pre 2001, a 25 minute film, but the shitheads in question will go on to building their pointless and uninteresting castles of shitheaddery, predicated on the unwholesome premise of following "their own nature" or whatever it is they supposedly have. They don't have a soul, clearly, a soul is born out of beatings, but a nature I suppose they must have. Even golums have "a nature", right ? So let's call it that, they're following their nature. Disgusting stuff, really.
And here we are - me wondering why there aren't any more great actors coming out of the new shithead generation, they wondering why there isn't any more money coming at them like it used to back when Kidman was a virgin. Win-win, as the shitheads pretending to be capitalists like to say. Different pretense, same shitheads anyway. [↩]
- To be distinguished from the pandering, despicable ersatz brought to the screen by Malkovich (Disgrace). [↩]
- Such as in the extremely unkind, and on the face unmerited dismissal of a friend who had the misfortune of also being his lawyer, and in this capacity was in no sense speaking out of line. [↩]
- "Barbatii-s facuti din carne - femeile, din otel. Ar fi trebuit sa fie altfel, dar Dumnezeu mai greseste si el. Femeile zic ca-s din carne, barbatii, ca-s din otel, si de-asta e noaptea intuneric, si viata e un hotel". You can listen to it here : Ca nisipul femeile sunt - A. Andries. It says, "men are made of flesh - women, of steel. It should be the other way around, but God himself can err. Women say they're flesh, men, that they're steel - and that's why it gets dark at night, and life's a hotel." Because yes, there's Cohens in Romanian, you just don't know about it. For you do not speak Romanian. Let's not even talk Oriya. [↩]
- Here's a hint : if you were never raped it simply means you're the sort of worthless woman nobody can be bothered to even rape. Think on that. [↩]
- You know who doesn't like surprises ? People, that's who. You know who likes surprises ? Fucktards. Fucktards, the sort of mentally insufficients that lived their entire lives on hospital grounds. That's why when you throw someone a surprise birthday party and he doesn't evict you with a flamethrower I know you're honoring a putz, and that's why I don't ever stay at such an affair. I don't like socialising with putzes and their circle of putzy friends. [↩]