Friday, 25 March 2016

Human Nature: This Film Exists I Guess

Well, this movie kinda sucks. I don't often start reviews like this, even for movies which aren't that well made or have flaws, but it's true. This isn't a good movie. While people might not like certain Kaufman films due to their levels of pretension or overly convoluted meta-textual layers, this is actually just a bad film.

Its basic premise is inane and just seems like a bunch of poor ideas thrown together. A woman who suffers from a hormone defect which causes hair to grow wildly over all her body falls in love with a psychologist who doesn't know about the hair thing. They find a man who was raised to believe he was an ape and capture him so the psychologist can civilise him.

Instinct versus civility, barbarism versus science, nature versus man, contrived metaphor versus cliched moral.

Man-ape, scientist in coat, naked lady with her naughty bits covered by leaves. That says it all really.

While watching the film, I was struck by how it bears all the superficial hallmarks of a Kaufman script with the quirky touches, hints of surrealism, and unusual narrative device but how now of them hit their mark. There's just no cohesion. Tropes which would be mind-bending or emotive his other films, feel inane and annoying here.

For example, Rhys Ifan's ape man wasn't raised by apes and therefore thinks he's an ape. He was raised by his father as an ape. Because his father believed he was an ape and so wanted to raise his child like an ape. For a while his father tried to live like a normal human but rejected humanity due to President Kennedy's assassination because apes don't assassinate their presidents...

That's convoluted in a classic Kaufman way but President Kennedy's assassination is the tipping point? That seems so utterly forced and unnecessary. It also trivialises a tragedy by linking it to a man who believes himself to be an ape rejecting civilisation based on the premise that apes don't assassinate presidents.

To clarify, he self-identifies as a pygmy chimp.

In his other films, the convoluted nature and quirky touches are interesting and seem to have a point. They don't come off as forced or having little direction like they appear to in this movie. Maybe it's because they don't hit the emotional beats they should.

The quirkiness and convoluted surreal elements in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Synecdoche, New York had an emotional weight to them which is just completely absent from this film. And so it just comes across as cloying.

In Human Nature's defense, there was one quirky element which did pay off and worked rather well. Most of the film is told as flashback by the main characters, including Tim Robbins' dead Nathan Bronfman (the psychologist) addressing an unseen audience in some sort of limbo.

"Well, I would feel happy but I don't know what happy is anymore. Because I'm dead." - Bronfman, probably

These scenes are the cleverest things in the film. He's just in this white room where everything is white and he is dressed in white. He opens the door on the left of the room and it opens the door on the right like in Portal. He remembers being alive but can't remember what emotions feel like anymore since he's dead. All he can do is retell his life story. A perfectly quirky yet horrifying purgatory.

However one nice touch doesn't save a move, especially one where there just seems to be a complete lack of substance to the story. It's a day after I watched the film and I'm struggling to remember what happened in it. Maybe it's because the story isn't that compelling. It just seems so contrived like it's trying to make a point while at the same time undermining that same point so you don't really care.

This (ape)man is testifying before Congress to let mankind know the errors of its ways or something?

But I think the movie's greatest sin is that it is boring. I was bored watching it. It never once hooked me in. With his other films, I felt intrigued and wanted to watch them. With this one I could barely focus and often stopped the film to do other things.

Nothing in it comes together in a natural way and his movie with puppets was more human.

Musing Rating: 1 Musing

The type of film which makes you think "what the fuck am I watching?" before realising the question should be "why the fuck am I watching this?" and which you don't think about after it finishes aside from asking yourself, "why the fuck did I watch that?".



References:

Human Nature Wikipedia page

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