The Human Stain

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Japanese title: Shiroi Karasu
Director: Robert Benton
Running time: 108 minutes
Language: English
Currently showing
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When David Howard, a white aide to the black mayor of Washington, D.C., spoke of a "niggardly" budget in 1999, he was out of a job faster than you can say "Brer Rabbit." Howard was tarred for supposedly being a racist by people whose eagerness to take offense was only equaled by their reluctance to open a dictionary.

It was one of those defining moments that crystalizes feeling into fact, where the hypersensitivity of political correctness was hoist on its own petard. This much-reported event was echoed in "The Human Stain," in which author Philip Roth took the incident's apparent irony and upped the ante, constructing a nuanced parable on race, class and morality in modern America. Veteran director Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer") brings Roth's tale pretty much intact to the big screen -- though its innate cynicism is somewhat offset by the glamour of a high-profile cast.

Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins may seem like one of cinema's most unlikely screen romances, and as far as May-September affairs go, the 30-year age difference may seem implausible to some, but actually, challenging such assumptions is part of what this film's about.