The thriller aspects of the story and the overall solid level of acting -- including a sexy performance from a red-hot Nicole Kidman -- keep the audience interested but never fully emotionally involved.
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All we are left with, in essence, is an unlikely love affair, performed by two actors so remorselessly skilled that, by the end, you can't see the love for the skill. [3 November 2003, p. 104]
For all its shortcomings, The Human Stain is an honorable, sometimes moving attempt, better at evoking the poignancy of Silk's autumnal affair than exploring the moral ambiguities of his deception.
Powered by two eye-catching performances.
Playing the young Coleman with the requisite intelligence and ambiguity, Wentworth Miller contributes the sole viable characterization.
The film's two big flaws are readily apparent: a clunky screenplay and the miscasting of the lead character.
Roth's novel was at heart a howl of rage against a corrupt, hypocritical, judgmental world, but Benton's austere adaptation--stunningly shot by the late Jean-Yves Escoffier--speaks largely in muted tones.
Roth's deep-dish introspection would be difficult for any movie to achieve, but with the right cast and more passion, we might have been pulled right into Coleman's psychic prison. The Human Stain isn't a movie of ideas, and it's too inert to be a probing character study. No stain is left behind, just a wan watermark.
The Human Stain is heavy going. It's the flashes of dramatic lightning that make it a trip worth taking.
Elegant, thoughtful film.