Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
A philosophical burlesque, Human Nature follows the ups and downs of an obsessive scientist, a female naturalist, and the man they discover, born and raised in the wild. As scientist Nathan trains the wild man, Puff, in the ways of the world - starting with table manners - Nathan's lover Lila fights to preserve the man's simian past, which represents a freedom enviable to most. In the power struggle that ensues, an unusual love triangle emerges exposing the perversities of the human heart and the idiosyncrasies of the civilized mind. Human Nature is a comical examination of the trappings of desire in a world where both nature and culture are idealized. Written by
I've Gotta Crow
Music by Moose Charlap (as Mark Charlap)
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
(From the 1954 Broadway version of "Peter Pan")
Performed by Rhys Ifans
Published by Edwin H. Morris & Company, a Division of MPL Communications, Inc.
Used by permission of Carwin Music Inc. See more »
'Human Nature' is a completely underrated feature, intelligently written by Charlie Kaufman and soundly directed by Michel Gondry in his feature film debut. 'Human Nature' suffered from high expectations - after 'Being John Malkovich' everybody expected another brain-bending masterpiece, and instead received a subtle, wry and quietly philosophical comedy, open to all kinds of interpretation and featuring beautiful, under-appreciated performances from Patricia Arquette, Tim Robbins and Rhys Ifans.
Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette) suffers from a hormonal problem that causes hair to grow all over her body, which first appeared in her pre-teens. Convinced by her mother that she would never get a man, Lila went to live in the woods among the animals, and become a nature writer. The books were successful, and in her new found fame, Lila could afford to become "a hairless lie"; to get electrolysis. Through Louise, who performs the electrolysis, Lila meets Dr. Nathan Bronfman, a bespectacled manners-obsessed virgin and scientist, currently working on a "large sociological project" involving mice. Lila and Nathan are immediately attracted to each other, and are soon living together. One day, on a hike in the woods, the pair discover a human raised by a man who thought he was an ape, completely uncontaminated by civilisation. Nathan decides the man needs to experience civilisation ("Never to know the love of a good woman or appreciate the complex works of Moby Dick or marvel at Monet?"), and decides to 'save' him, by teaching him manners and decorum.
What results from the oddball plot is a hilarious and occasionally touching investigation into human nature, that doesn't just come right out and say, "Humans are deceitful and always will be!" or the like, but leaves it up to you to decide.
Patricia Arquette gives a sincere performance, and provides the most touching moments in the film. She shows incredible range in this film; from her naive desire to please Nathan by becoming a "real girl", wearing pink, painting her nails and taking up ballet, to becoming a warrior. Lila is vulnerable when she is with Nathan, but she transforms herself (with the help of Louise) and becomes strong and confident.
Tim Robbins is convincing as a bordering obsessive compulsive, and shows great comedic timing in the first few scenes with Patricia Arquette. It was an interesting choice to have Tim Robbins talk about his actions in retrospect, and then see him act them out with pure selfishness and inability to control his lusting.
Rhys Ifan's performance as Puff is the same standard as Arquette's. He demonstrates a large range; from an 'ape' to the apex of 'refinement'. There is one scene in particular, where footage of Puff as an 'ape' is shown, while the reformed Puff stands calmly as it plays, knowingly, in a very civilised suit.
'Human Nature' is a bit of a mixed bag film - it even morphs into a musical for a moment near the beginning, in a song sung by Patricia Arquette herself (what a beautiful, restrained voice!). Sometimes it's surreal, as with the scene I mentioned in the last paragraph. The humour in the film is mostly created by scenes where the flaws of humankind are exposed - our indifference, how we pretend to be something we're not, how we like to separate ourselves from nature even though that's where we came from, before civilisation.
I love the open-endedness of this film! It is the best thing about it. Also, I enjoyed Gondry's sneaky references to Bjork's 'Human Behaviour' video clip.
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