I picked up The Human Stain only because Sir Anthony Hopkins stars in it and I’m a fan of his work. However, also starring in this movie are Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise, and they all give terrific performances.
The basic premise is that a college professor says something in class that is mistaken for a racial slur. He ultimately quits his job out of protest, and the shocking news utterly changes his relationship with his wife forever. He eventually finds himself in a relationship with a woman who seems to be further down the socio-economic structure (Kidman), and they must deal with her estranged and demented husband (Harris). I really can’t tell you much more about this film without spoiling some major plot devices, but let me just say that there are some fascinating insights into Hopkins’ character through flashbacks to his youth. I will also say that in the beginning of the movie everything seems rather random and pointless, but by the end of the film, it has all served a purpose, revealing a story that will truly provoke your deepest thoughts.
Again, Hopkins, as usual, was magnificent. Kidman was barely recognizable due to her drastically different body language and huffy, American accent. Ed Harris plays a man significantly disturbed and Harris pulls it off with such subtlety that I honestly saw insanity when I looked into his eyes. Sinise was the only character that troubled me just a bit. He seemed only to be on the fringe of the story, and while I thought Sinise did an impressive job, I never really truly understood the point of his character.
I genuinely recommend this movie. I don’t remember hearing much about it when it was in the theatres, and that’s probably because it has a rather controversial and daring premise. There are some brief scenes of nudity as well as harsh language, so take that into account.