Human Nature Reviews
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Lila (Patricia Arquette) is a woman burdened with excessive body hair ever since she was old enough for a training bra (with the younger version played by Disney?s Lizzie McGuire). Lila feels ashamed by her body and morbidly humiliated. She runs away to the forest to enjoy a life free from the critical eyes of other men. Here she can commune with nature and feel that she belongs.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nathan (Tim Robbins) is an anal retentive scientist obsessed with etiquette. As a young boy Nathan was sent to his room for picking the wrong fork to eat his meal with. He is now trying his best to teach mice table manners so he can prove that if etiquette can be taught to animals it can be ingrained toward humanity.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Lila and Nathan become lovers when she ventures back into the city, eliminating her body hair for now, because of something infinitely in human nature ? hormones. The two of them find a form of content, as neither had known the intimate touch of another human being.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]?Puff? (Rhys Ifans) is a grown man living his life in the woods convinced by his father that he is an ape. One day while walking through the woods Nathan and Lila discover the ape-man and have differing opinions on what should be done with him. Nathan is convinced that he should be brought into civilization and be taught the rules, etiquette and things that make us ?human.? It would also be his greatest experiment. Lila feels that he should maintain his freedom and live as he does in nature, how he feels he should.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]What follows is a bizarre love triangle over the reeducation of ?Puff,? as Nathan?s slinky French assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) names him. Lila is torn over the treatment of Puff and also her own society induced shame of her abundant amount of body hair. Nathan feels like he is saving Puff from his wayward primal urges, as he himself becomes a victim of them when he starts having an affair with Gabrielle. Puff, as he tells a congressional committee, was playing their game so he could find some action and ?get a piece of that.?[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Kaufman has written a movie in the same vein as ?Being John Malkovich? but missing the pathos and sadly, the humor. ?Human Nature? tries too hard to be funny and isn?t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. Many quirky elements are thrown out but don?t have the same sticking power as Kaufman?s previous film. It?s a fine line between being quirky just for quirky?s sake (like the atrocious ?Gummo?) and turning quirky into something fantastic (like ?Rushmore? or ?Raising Arizona?). ?Human Nature? is too quirky for its own good without having the balance of substance to enhance the weirdness further. There are many interesting parts to this story but as a whole they don?t ever seriously gel.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Debut director Michel Gondry cut his teeth in the realm of MTV making surreal videos for Bjork and others (including the new Lego animated one for The White Stripes). He also has done numerous commercials, most infamously the creepy-as-all-hell singing navels Levi ad. Gondry does have a vision, and that vision is ?Copy What Spike Jonze Did As Best As Possible.? Gondry?s direction never really registers, except for some attractive time shifts, but feels more like a rehash of Jonze?s work on, yep you guessed it, ?Being John Malkovich?. Jonze got an Oscar nomination for his film debut; the best thing Gondry could expect to receive is a little more personal style.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Arquette and Robbins do fine jobs in their roles with Arquette given a bit more, dare I say it more, humanity. Her Lila is trapped between knowing what is true to herself and fitting in to a society that tells her that it?s unhealthy and wrong. Ifans has fun with his character and lets it show. The acting in ?Human Nature? is never really the problem.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]While ?Human Nature? is certainly an interesting film (hey it has Arquette singing a song in the buff and Rosie Perez as an electrologist) but the sum of its whole is lacking. It?s unfair to keep comparing it to the earlier ?Malkovich? but the film is trying too hard to emulate what made that movie so successful. ?Human Nature? just doesn?t have the gravity that could turn a quirky film into a brilliant one.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nate's Grade: C+ [/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Human Nature" is a disappointing off-kilter farce from the same writer(Charlie Kaufman) and the same director(Michel Gondry) who would make the wonderful "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" two years later. "Human Nature" wants to make the point about their being little difference between humans and animals when it comes to sexual conduct but humans have at least mastered birth control. And it does miss the opportunity to comment on animal experimentation. Robert Forster is the best thing about this movie. But what is up with Miranda Otto playing a French scientific assistant named Gabrielle?[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Patricia Arquette and Miguel Sandoval also star in the TV series "Medium."[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Miranda Otto and Tim Robbins reunite for the "War of the Worlds" remake coming out next week.[/font]
"Human Nature" almost works. It's ambitious and intriguing, but its one fatal flaw is that its reach seems to exceed its grasp; if only in small moments. There are times in the film where I felt content with the final product, but I always had the sense that it was imperfect. It's well-made and competently written by the masterful, observant, legendary Charlie Kaufman; and directed by Michel Gondry, who made his debut feature with this film. It's not the best way to come into the cinematic world, but I've seen so much worse.
Gondry is able to exercise his unique visual craft in the movie, which is always nice. He is one of the most gifted, living cinematic magicians working in the business today, and to restrain him would also be to ruin him. He doesn't go all the way, but he goes somewhere nonetheless, and therefore I can almost say I was satisfied. But the more I thought, the less I liked "Human Nature". I continued to admire it and enjoy myself throughout; this is solid entertainment. But it also tries to be something more; something, perhaps, a little more thoughtful than most of its kind. It could be labeled as a comedy, and at that, it's better than most. It's often quite funny, and always amusing, but too often does it seem to confuse pleasure with depth and skillful writing. This is where it begins to trip, eventually falling to the ground. Yet, I still feel it's able to get back up again.
A naturalist (Patricia Arquette) who has been plagued with a particularly hairy body her entire life, a passionate scientist (Tim Robbins), and a genuine man-ape (Rhys Ifans) all come together to form the story, and give it characters. The naturalist, named Lila, befriends scientist Nathan, and the two begin a romantic partnership. One day, they take a walk in the woods, and discover the mysterious man-ape, whom they call Puff. They take him back to the lab which Nathan runs, and proceed to study him for many days, many nights, and many months. Nathan is obsessive when it comes to his work with the peculiar man, and the tension only gets, well, tenser, when his sexy secretary comes into his life and starts up an unlikely love triangle that just keeps getting more complicated as the movie goes on.
That's pretty much your story right there, or at least, it's all that I feel you need to know in order for you to make the ultimate decision: is it worth seeing? If you are intrigued by the basic idea behind the film, then I would strongly advise you to give it a shot. I quite enjoyed most of what it had to offer, the filmmaking talents behind it tried their hardest to make it work (and just barely failed to do so, in my opinion), and there's a certain whimsy to the film that cannot be put down or denied. It's not for everyone, and the slapstick tone certainly didn't agree with me for any more than half of the time, but when it's funny; it's actually pretty clever.
It's a nice movie, because it gives us room to admire the film. I enjoyed the scenes of experimentation with mice, love-making in the wilderness (complete with surreal and pretty color schemes), and of course, any sequence involving Puff's growth from ape to "real" man. There are some good gags involving Nathan's strict, somewhat unsupportive parents, as well as many jokes pertaining to apes and how inappropriate life would be if we were still as primitive as they still are, but there's also plenty of repetition; and we've yet again come to another point of criticism surrounding the film.
It's not bad, it's pretty well-acted, and there are some scenes that really stand out. Let's just say that if you like Michel Gondry, then it's worth seeing. This isn't Charlie Kaufman's best screenplay, nor is it anywhere near the quality of his later works, but I can appreciate "Human Nature" for what it is; all it takes is a nice step back. I can't say I recommend it, but by no means am I giving you a red flag NOT to see it. Tread these waters at your own risk, but just remember; even a mildly pretentious, ambitious, comedic mess can be somewhat beautiful, but still...not quite what you might expect from it.