Superior adaptation of Philip Roth novel

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Overall rating:

Score 4


The Human Stain


For using the word “spooks” in class, though he means “ghosts”, distinguished academic Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) becomes the target of a politically correct witch-hunt. His wife dies; his reputation is ruined. Meeting reclusive writer Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise), he reflects on his life, but any notions of calm are scuppered when he falls into a tempestuous affair with the emotionally damaged Faunia (Nicole Kidman), 30 years his junior. She has a bitter Vietnam Vet ex-husband (Ed Harris) and more problems than even Silk’s wisdom can comprehend. But Silk’s past houses a secret?one he’s never told anyone.

Director Robert Benton has adapted Roth’s incendiary book with unflappable subtlety. Hopkins’ performance has to be both towering and vulnerable, and is. Sinise and Harris are reliable, and the younger cast excel. Benton fluidly flies this American tragedy across time, morals and ethics, and across scenes of privilege, poverty, prejudice, boxing, eroticism, loneliness and deep inexplicable connection. Magnificent.