"The Human Stain" is based on a novel by Philip Roth, which was adapted into a screenplay by Nicholas Meyer. Robert Benton, of "Kramer vs. Kramer" fame, chose to direct the film. At the box office, the film did fairly well, but wasn't a massive success. The director is quoted as saying that the primary focus of the film is how some people choose to pass as a different race.
The story begins with Coleman Silk, a professor, being fired from his position at a university after being accused of racism. After none of his colleagues support his defense, he leaves his job and goes home, where his wife dies after hearing the news. After the incident, he pursues a reclusive writer named Nathan Zuckerman to get him to help him write a book about it.
One day, while visiting the post office, he meets a woman named Faunia Farley. He meets her again after her car breaks down and he drives her home, where she seduces him. They end up getting into a relationship, but all is not well. She reveals that she was in a rich family, but left when her stepfather started molesting her. She then married a man named Lester, who beat her up after their children were lost in a fire.
Lester starts harassing the two lovers, resulting in his own arrest. At the same time, Coleman starts remembering his past, revealing that his parents were both black, but he was born with very white skin. However, he abandoned his family and chose to pass as a white man in order to be more successful.
Coleman Silk is played by Anthony Hopkins (older version) and Wentworth Miller (younger version). The writer, Nathan Zuckerman, is played by Gary Sinise. Faunia Farley and Lester Farley are played by Nicole Kidman and Ed Harris, respectively. Coleman's father is played by Harry Lennix, his mother is played by Anna Smith, and his sister is played by Phyllis Newman.
The acting in this film is good and I was particularly impressed by Ed Harris and young Wentworth Miller. Anthony Hopkins does a good job of portraying a man frustrated by the absurd acts of the university he works for as well as the older man in love. Nicole Kidman's performance wasn't the greatest in my opinion, but worked.
The soundtrack of the film features a lot of jazz music and some classical. Three of the songs are Duke Ellington covers by Johnny Hodges, Marian McPartland, and The Oscar Peterson Trio. There are also songs by Teddy Wilson, Ken Peplowski, and The Vienna Kozerthaus Quartet.
Most of the filming took place in small towns in Canada, although some scenes were shot in Chicago and Massachusetts. The town that Coleman lives in seems to be very personal and rural, particularly since Faunia lives on a horse ranch. The cabin that Nathan Zuckerman has retreated to is in a very remote location and proves to be a relaxing sanctuary for Coleman Silk.
Overall, I felt that the movie was good, but not excellent. There are some good performances, but some elements of the plot just felt unbelievable. In any case, the film is still watchable and enjoyable, albeit not on the same level as some other movies.