The Rat
Sunday, October 26, 2003
      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
YES, I AM PRECISELY THAT TRASHY. The Rat just caught a sneak preview of Robert Benton's adaptation of The Human Stain.

And... it was exactly what you would expect a Hollywood adaptation of that novel to be—eerily so, in fact. I adore Anthony Hopkins, but he's been playing himself for at least the past ten years, and so he does in this movie (as seventysomething classics professor and man-with-a-past—or part of a past—Coleman Silk). In Hollywood's version of the world, Faunia Farley—the thirtysomething janitor/battered wife/all-round tragic heroine with whom Silk has an affair—looks like Nicole Kidman and has perfect teeth. (They did give her a couple of tattoos apparently in hopes of making her seem more working-class—but come on, tattoos were gentrified forever ago.) The best casting move was probably Gary Sinise as Nathan Zuckerman, but we're not talking a very high bar here. Roth's fondness for intrusive narrators also shouldn't have been kept to so closely (the screenwriter was being way too cautious to be good); one scene, in which Zuckerman describes the book he's writing ("What's it called?" "The Human Stain.") to another character, comes off basically as a movie-screen-size infomercial.

About twenty minutes from the end, I realized we were about twenty minutes from the end—and felt taken aback. The movie of The Human Stain gets the basic story across, and Roth does know how to plot, but if you've read the book you'll undoubtedly find yourself wondering, as I did, what happened to the other two-thirds of The Human Stain. Florence King has remarked that she is ultimately less suited to writing fiction than to writing non-fiction, because she cares more about what people think than about what they do. Roth's novels are—beautifully—about both, but their events still happen too much in his characters' heads for them to work really well as movies. (To its credit, the movie does suffer less than the book from some rather tired anti-political-correctness moralizing Roth's editors were too cowed, or too lazy, to make him remove. But it also lays on with a trowel many of the race issues Roth naturally handled much better.)

Bottom line: Roth fiends like myself might get some trashy pleasure out of seeing one of his plots enacted in 3-D. Everyone else, though, should just skip The Human Stain—in either incarnation—and get themselves a copy of this or this instead.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:00 PM


      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
CHEAP-SHOT SUMMARY of certain elements of Russian Formalism: "Sometimes, when an author tells a story, HE'S JUST MAKING IT UP!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:00 PM


      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
It's a bright, guilty world.
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:00 PM




A page I'm starting to get the overlords at EveTushnet.com to stop $#@! bugging me


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