Review by Steve Rhodes|
2½ stars out of 4
"Remember -- when in doubt, don't ever do what you really want to do," Nathan
Bronfman (Tim Robbins) advises Puff (Rhys Ifans) on his first day free in the
wilds of modern civilization. After Oscar nominee Charlie Kaufman's wonderfully
weird first film script, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, viewers have been wondering
what's next. HUMAN NATURE, his follow-up effort is just weird, although it
certainly does have its moments.
Having accepted a fat Gwyneth Paltrow (SHALLOW HAL) and a badly disfigured Tom
Cruise (VANILLA SKY), audiences will now have to endure an extremely hairy
Patricia Arquette as Lila Jute, a woman who could get a job as a freak in a
circus sideshow. Rosie Perez plays Lila's cosmetologist who tries to keep her
The story concerns Puff, a man who was raised in the forest by a man who thought
he as an ape. The story is told in flashback as Puff testifies before a
congressional committee, while the police interrogate Lila and while Nathan sits
ruminating in an all-white purgatory.
Lila, who herself headed to the woods as a preteen when her hairy condition
first appeared, becomes a recluse and an avant-garde nature writer. After
leaving the wilds as an adult, she goes to live with Nathan, a seriously
disturbed scientist who uses electro-shock conditioning to teach table manners
to mice. It seems that his parents were the types who punished him for using
the wrong fork at dinner. In revenge, he is dead set on inflicting the same
pain on white mice until they learn fork etiquette.
Moving up from mice to humans, Nathan puts Puff in a glass cage and uses
electrodes to teach him civilized behavior. A seriously sexy Miranda Otto plays
Puff's lab assistant and seducer.
The movie works best and is the funniest in the scenes of Puff's conditioning.
Devoid of female companionship his entire life, Puff has trouble controlling his
sexual urges, even with major jolts. Even a picture of a naked woman is enough
to have him attacking it. "Shan't happen again," Puff always tells them quite
properly after his sex drive gets the better of him. Other than sexual
cravings, his behavior is exemplary from evenings attending the opera to putting
on his own performance of "Peter Pan." Most of this, however, happens
completely in simulation behind his glass walls. When they let him out in the
real world, he has troubles.
So where do they take Puff for his "acid test?" To Chester's (really Hooters),
of course. That's undeniably cruel and unusual punishment.
HUMAN NATURE runs 1:32. It is rated R for "sexuality/nudity and language" and
would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes