THE HUMAN STAIN is a haunting, melancholy tale of one man’s hidden shame that leads him to make incredibly unwise decisions throughout his life. The movie is full of sex, nudity, profanity, smoking, some violence, and a “life is meaningless, so find someone as damaged as yourself to console you” message combined with, “true happiness is found in great sex” sub-message.
THE HUMAN STAIN contains so many references to sex, sex scenes, and nudity that it could be considered softcore porn. The main characters Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) and Faunia Farley (Nichole Kidman) have sex so often (keep in mind their 30 year age difference!) that one would think that this is a fantasy film for dirty old men. Hopkins’ character asks, “What’s it like having sex with an old man?” to which Kidman’s character replies, “It’s perfect. . . no surprises.” Coleman and Farley are two hurt people who, having nothing in the world in common, find each other and have a passionate relationship based on sex, which eventually gets them killed.
The setting is the early 90s, Clinton is in office, the Lewinsky scandal is brewing, and Viagra is new on the market (mentioned at least three times). Coleman Silk is a Jewish professor who has become dean of a small midwestern college, which he has transformed into a notable school. A voiceover says, “and then the Persecution Spirit caught up to him,” and he is embroiled in a scandal over a supposed racial statement he made in one of his classes. In anger, he resigns, and when he goes home to tell his dear wife, the stress of the moment causes her to have a cardiac arrest and die.
Next, he barges into the house of reclusive writer with writers’ block, Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise), practically demanding that he write a story of how the people of his college practically murdered his wife in their fury to get to him. Zuckerman wisely refuses, but becomes a friend to Coleman, helping him cope with his tragic life. One day, Coleman comes to Zuckerman, glowing about a new lady in his life and recounting the story of how Faunia and he met and she basically invited him to have sex with her.
Much to Zuckerman’s (and the rest of the town’s) dismay, the 60 something ex-dean and the 30 something trailer trash babe are an item. It is about this point, that flashbacks of Coleman’s youth unravel a tremendous secret he has hidden his entire adult life. Faunia is a divorced woman whose two children died in a fire. Her ex-husband, Vietnam Veteran Lester, played with angry clarity by Ed Harris, stalks her in a psychotic mix of “I love you, I want to kill you!” rage.
Poor old Coleman is in severe trouble. Against all of his friend’s advice, he continues seeing Faunia. As the film unravels, the mystery of Coleman Silk, the audience sees how truly messed up he is inside, with his mannerly presentation masking his pain. Faunia, on the other hand, wears her pain on her sleeve. Two lost people from different worlds find mutual solace in their mutual pain. As the audience discovers the real secrets behind Faunia and Coleman’s pain, they realize the hopelessness of their plight. Soon, crazy Lester catches up with them and puts them out of their, and his, misery.
Writer Zuckerman publishes his next novel, THE HUMAN STAIN, and he faces his fear of life by facing a never convicted Lester with an “I know what you did” message. A great quote Coleman makes is, “I wanted to be free, but became a prisoner instead.” The best quote, however, is from Coleman’s sister who shows up at his funeral and says, “People are getting dumber. . . and more opinionated!”
THE HUMAN STAIN probably will rack up more awards for these great actors. It will garner applause from the secular press. Christians will remember it as just another film about the emptiness of life without God.
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SUMMARY: In THE HUMAN STAIN, a despairing professor gets involved with a trampy young woman and sees just how far he will go to cover a painful, mysterious past. With language, nudity, and a horrid worldview, THE HUMAN STAIN is a portrayal of the empty human heart, void of a savior.
(PaPa, LLL, V, SS, NNN, A, D, M) Pagan worldview with hopeless, “just find someone to cry with” message, including depression, despair, suicide, and murder; about seven mild obscenities, 25 strong obscenities, two profanities, and several racial slurs; violence includes murder by running people off snowy road into lake and boxing violence with blood; sex includes four veiled sex scenes; nudity includes both upper and total female nudity, with Nicole Kidman performing an extended striptease dance; some alcohol use; smoking; and, constant lying to cover real identity.