Projections - Movie Reviews

Human Nature

A hairy peculiarity is on display for those interested in watching Human Nature, the product of video and commercial director Michel Gondry and Being John Malkovich scribe Charlie Kaufman, who also serves the French helmer as co-producer.

Here is a case of a film not being done in by pretentiousness by a director and a writer able to tap satirically into nature and the animalistic tendencies of man, but a conformity that keeps a potentially wild story with comedic characters from evolving into a highly amusing, eccentric tale like Malkovich.

Though it regretfully doesn't end with the spirit of the film's behavioral scientist as played by Tim Robbins: "When in doubt, don't do whatever you want to do"; Human Nature is bizarrely predicated on instinct from the start.  Physical shortcomings and differences are the order as looked into the likes of Robbins's Nathan, a social recluse because he's not well endowed.

As Lila, Patricia Arquette (True Romance, Little Nicky) is more wound up than in many of her roles, probably due to a hormonal imbalance that almost has her committing suicide.  But, she accepts her hirsute, animal side and prefers a Dian Fossey existence, emerging as a best-selling author on nature.  A return from the wild habitat is necessary if she is to be emotionally nourished.

With help from a cosmetologist (Rosie Perez) who uses electrolysis to make her more attractive to her own kind, her Louise provides the apt social match for Lila in the well-mannered Nathan. At the outset, Nathan is known to have a bullet in his head and offers voice-over from the afterlife.  He is later seen in a project for mice doing similar things that his mother (Mary Kay Place) and father (Robert Forster) did for him.

In no time Lila has lured her lover out on a forest walk which has them beholding a fierce Tarzan of sorts (Rhys Ifans of The Shipping News) forced to live as an ape by his inhumane father.  Human Nature begins to get giddy on its civilization project and twisted optical production values as Nathan and Lila name their behavioral study, "Puff".  Complicating things, is Nathan's Frenchy assistant, Gabrielle, acted with slippery allure by Miranda Otto.

Puff makes large strides in reading Melville and modeling his social skills for the opera, but there are some distractions which has his primal urges elongating his carnal self.  Some of the funnier moments of Human Nature relate Puff's raunchy "Just Looking" adjusting once outside of his plexiglas enclave.

Although a character study of human instincts begins to simmer, the outrageous situations and characters aren't more deftly explored as in Malkovich and Kaufman's ideas become hampered by reiteration with Gondry lacking in staging the disparate, harsh conditions with a flair for the unusual, finally unsympathetic performers.

The duality of Human Nature is expressed well, nevertheless, by Ifans who in some ways expands on his slovenly roommate in Notting Hill, as well as Arquette who ends up less discomforted by her disorder and Robbins as the wry anal-retentive scientist whose lab has reverence for his parents in its furnishings.  Despite an unlikely engaging pattern coagulating before the final reel, a technically resourceful Gondry and the bright, witty Kaufman at last repress their cavalier, nature loving instincts, thus unfortunately tamed by its frantic ambitions.

Human Nature

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