It’s a movie about love and redemption. But more than that, really, it’s a movie about death, depression, and every single horrible thing you can possibly imagine. Seemingly five minutes after each character in The Human Stain is introduced, they either croak, watch a spouse croak, or go into detail about their children who croaked. The ones who are lucky enough to avoid such a fate end up insane or so forlorn they hide out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. The feel-good DVD of the summer this ain’t.
Based on a book by Philip Roth, ”Stain” tries hard to be a great movie — really hard. How else to explain the casting of Anthony Hopkins as a black man? True, his character is one who has passed for white for 50 years, but Sir Anthony’s accent doesn’t exactly jibe with a person born and bred in East Orange, N.J. Nicole Kidman, once again dressed down to play a luckless lady who scrubs toilets, is fine, I suppose, but also seems to be constantly trying to conceal the fact that she’s the famous and beautiful Nicole Kidman. (Where are the prosthetics when you need ’em?)
But the main problem with ”Stain” is that what may have worked over 361 pages in Roth’s book becomes one nonstop depress-orama when condensed into less than two hours on screen. After a while, you become numb to all the misery, even, sadly, when you stumble upon the DVD’s pretty much lone extra, a video tribute to the film’s cinematographer, Jean Yves Escoffier. Who died.