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As he managed to do in Being John Malkovich, brilliant writer Kaufman succeeds in creating a completely believable alternative reality, which he employs as a metaphor that pokes seemingly light (and therefore lethally subversive) fun at 'society' - what it means to be civilized, what it means to be free, how people judge each other based on ridiculously superficial differences of appearance, etc, etc. It works, because Kaufman IS so brilliant, and I left the theatre with the same feeling I had gotten from Being John Malkovich - inspired and gratified that someone like this not only exists in the world but actually gets to put his completely unique and uncompromising visions on the screen.
'Human Nature' will inevitably be reviewed in comparison to 'Being John
Malkovich', and the comments will be along the lines of 'less coherent',
'not likely to be as commercially successful', etc. But should these be
reasons to NOT see this movie? Only if you want to miss the most
intelligent movie to come out since BJM. Forget 'A Beautiful Mind', which
gives the appearance of intelligence by flaunting pseudo-guru math, but was
just another sappy tale of 'the triumph of the human spirit'.
What makes 'Human Nature' and BJM a cut above the usual cinema drivel, is that they actually attempt to get into some serious philosophical issues. BJM delves into personal identity, while 'Human Nature' digs even deeper into the realm of our underlying... human nature. What makes human nature any better than animal nature? civilization? language? manners? And do these distinctly human features actually make us better, or just different, or different in a bad way... i.e. by making us lead dual lives, tearing our originally united being into inharmonious halves (subjective/objective)? And can we simply unite our duplicitousness by forgetting language, civilization, and manners... by returning to nature? Or, with a philosopher who gets an intensional nod in 'Human Nature', Wittgenstein, are we stuck in language, forever banished from the garden of eden?
This movie raised all of these questions, and more, for me... which is what I expect out of a good movie: not only does it entertain us, but it invites us to join in the entertaining. By posing these questions, it challenges us to answer them, and to ask our own questions of it... which means that we have to see it again in order for it to continue the dialogue. Now that's what I call interactive movie-going. Philosophy has started some great stuff in history: religion, government, science. So I think that's its not asking too much for movies to engage in philosophical debates and trying to include the audience, rather than thinking of the audience as fodder for the box office.
I read the IMDB reviews on this two nights ago, and decided not
rent this film. But then as if by coincidence, the next night I
it was on cable currently, so I taped it.
And I'm glad I did.
It seems some reviewers lament the lack of a message in this, I can appreciate such weighty films, hey I enjoyed the "Whale Rider," but such films often reduce down simply to hackneyed sententia. I'm kinda afraid life does as well...but this ain't the forum for that chat.
Charlie Kaufmann seems to specialize in *mixed* message films. I enjoy them as I enjoy a puzzle. They are thought-provoking both in theme and in details (don't know about you, but I had to look up Franz Kline...)
Other reviewers lament the onanism going on (or should that be down). To me, "Adaptation" was a whole lot more masturbatory, this has an easier-to-follow plot. The humor rises more quickly to the surface...and yes I did chuckle at times.
No one so far has voiced concern over this being a film that reflects back from the start. It is done deftly; although I know some people dislike that as a device.
There are several nice film tricks. A circular beginning/ending, Robbins clearly being in a closed afterworld, and nods to other films...Bambi, Tarzan, Frankenstein, Sophie's Choice... ;> No, I'm forgetting another real one. I'm not that familiar with the director's MTV exploits, but I'll rent that collection sooner or later.
No one here yet has mentioned Young Frankenstein (which I see as more of a prototype than Pygmalion...or even Oedipus Rex.) But there are some serious questions being posed. Less these days than in the 70's do we get pitched an idyllic ideal; one wherein if man were stripped of his modern trappings, social strictures, political oppression and other garb, would we find a purer being? Isn't that also an element of Marx/Hegelism?
Kaufmann weaves a new sort of unibrow...uniting the high and the low.
There are other more universal moments here. Arquette struggling not to care what others think about her. Robbins trying to chose between the sweet girlfriend and the saucy seductress, between his heart and his...
Ahem, still there's much more here than what I fear is found in "Me and Him." Libido is a prime mover...whether subjugated or conjugal.
I'm having a hard time wrapping this up...is it a film that states that human nature is deceitful (all of four main characters are in at least one charade)?
Again, I'm glad I rented it. I've got to get better at cross-referencing other reviewers when reading posts here. I think Kaufmann is a very gifted, and very conflicted guy.
I don't know what's happening with the votes on this movie. It IS
really great. May be people just get offended by lots of nudity in this
picture? Why to bother? It's VERY thought-provoking, extremely smart,
funny and in a same way sad. I prefer it over Eternal Sunshine
sometimes. Really great story about how hopeless we all are. A bit
farce, a bit comedy, and great philosophical meaning. Why don't we live
in forests? Why don't we try to be free? Why do we live in this world
of steel and plastic? Just think about what questions do Kaufman movie
Being John Malkovich .. is pretty shallow, not strong work. I still adore it, but it's worst Kaufmans work for me, though it's extremely original.
Adaptation brings out greatest thoughts about movie-making, about human relations, about creativity and Hollywood, about mainstream and real art. And the funny thing Adaptation even mocks about itself. Great script.
Eternal Sunshine is mainly about love, destiny and memories. Nothing else there. Though i have to admit it's a perfect script.
Human Nature is an anti-human, Greenpeace-pro movie... till the very end. It mocks humanity sometimes, but mostly talks about how self-important we are, how ungracious to the nature around us. But the end ... Well, wont write spoilers here.
This movie is a skeptical answer for all those hopeless romantics out there. And i think it's a great symbiotic relationship. Romance and skepticism.
Finally, a definitive answer to the question, "What is human nature?" Actually, "Human Nature" is not the answer to that question, but it does address other issues, one of which is the nature of comedy. Many, if not most, people who see "Human Nature" will not care for it. I was going to say "not get it", but that is condescending. I think "Human Nature" is a hilarious comedy. It's extreme adsurdity makes it so. It combines elements of Pygmalion, Frankenstein and Tarzan into a wonderful, modern day farce. The story is about a love rectangle formed by Nathan Bronfman (Robbins), Lila Jute (Arquettte), Puff (Ifans), and Gabrielle (Otto). Nathan and Gabrielle are somewhat normal (as normal as two scientists can be), but Lila and Puff are a bit off center. She has a problem with body hair which covers her whole body, and Puff, was raised in the wild by his father, who thought he was a gorilla. The story is told through flashback by the dead Nathan, the testifying Puff, and the arrested Lila. Wonderfully done. The one question I had throughout was how Puff came to be testifying in front of congress. The answer was so pat and contrived it was funny. My advice is, go see this movie with 4 or 5 friends, and try and predict which one of you will like it. The rest will hate it.
This may be one of the most undereatimated movies on the imdb. Trumped only
by it's more popular cousin Adaptation, this movie in the best that film
language has to offer express all the joy, sorrow, misery, agony, torment,
ennui, sillyness, and boozy lust of being a biologacal creature in a social
super structure. I love this movie. I love how it translates the dry
language psychological philosophy into an entertaining movie that is both
emotional heavy and light heartedly funny. Rhys Ifans is absolutely
wonderful in his portayal of the apotheosis of the destructive nature of
language on human emotion. As with adaptation I just can't say enough about
this movie. They seem so intelligent and full of joy that Charlie Kaufman is
quickly becoming one of my favorite writers in hollywood along with
Linklater and Tarantino.
10 out of 10 i'm drunk
This is further proof that writer Charlie Kaufman is probably the most unique writer in show business and he's developing into quite the cult figure. This odd story is about a woman named Lila (Patricia Arquette) who's body is covered with hair and at the age of 20 she retreats into the wilderness to hide and she writes nature books to make ends meet. But after some time she decides to leave and get electro-dialysis because she gets horny. Her friend hooks her up with a shy and repressed scientist named Nathan (Tim Robbins) and they hit it off. Then while on a nature walk they discover a man (Rhys Ifans) living in the wilderness who thinks he's an ape. They take him back to Nathan's lab where he is going to teach him to be human. Only Kaufman could come up with such a ridiculous story and make it redeemable. The film is directed by Michel Gondry who is known for directing several of Bjorks videos and he makes his feature film debut here. I think the film works because Kaufman makes sure the viewer is not to take this seriously but at the same time the humor is not presented in an over the top way like some cheap attempt at laughs. The humor is more dry witted and it reminded me a little of something Albert Brooks might have thought of. Another thing I enjoyed was the performance of Arquette. She's the core of this film and it should remind everyone that she is able to carry a film by herself and that she's a very underrated actress. I've always been a big fan of hers and she's just not used in films enough. She does appear nude but she seems fine with it and she should, she looks great. The film wants to ask the question about sex and the difference between humans and animals and the environment we are all brought up in. When the film was over I wasn't sure what to make of it but once I found out that Charlie Kaufman wrote the script an immediate smile came across my face. Knowing he was behind this odd comedy seems to make all the sense in the world!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been watching a lot of movies and this movie is kind of like a snack in between the really hard hitting movies. As that, it's really entertaining, at times insightful, and fun to watch. Some people may have gone into watching this expecting a straight comedy, and perhaps that is the reason they were disappointed. The movie is satiric, and only at certain times is the comedy blatant and obvious (some people call this gross-out humor). I found the idea of Arquette's character Lila having hair all over her body as a bit uncouth, but the filmmakers are trying to make a point about the superficialities that is part of being human.
Acknowledging the title, I expected a mock of what we humans hold dear as our essence, and I got just that. The movie should not be discredited because the philosophical aspect of nature versus nurture is on the light side. I think Human Nature has some good insights that everyone can walk away with. As humans in a civilized society, we have to conform to the norm and follow rules. We have to restrain our hormonal pressures for sex and the like. Isn't it argued by some that the sole purpose of life is to reproduce? That idea is a bit crude and cold, and most of us don't like to think of it like that.
We used to be in touch with nature when we were first born, but after being indoctrinated into societal culture and behavior, we lost our nature. This dehumanization of our essence is essentially what we hold to be human, as ironic as that is. Man is a rational animal as Aristotle said. Would we be rational if weren't taught to be? Are we at all times rational in this civilized society? Aren't people still fighting over trivial things? Are we any smarter now than we were two thousand years ago? Although not explicitly in the movie, these sorts of thoughts is what the movie is essentially bringing up.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie was when Puff (Rhys Ifans) is shown a slide of a naked woman on a projector and he instinctively lunges at the picture trying to 'get some.' I am reminded of a similar scene, with different ends, in Clockwork Orange. Nathan (Tim Robbins) has to shock him several times before he learns to contain his sexual urges. I found all of the scenes trying to teach Puff to be a sophisticated person hilarious, including the scene where he whispers to a manakin from a fake balcony watching a non-existent opera. Miranda Otto playing the assistant of Nathan, Gabrielle, was funny with her fake French accent and mannerisms.
Nathan's parents were equally funny teaching their adopted six-year old son Wayne table manners. At one point, Nathan says, "Mother please tell Wayne not to hit on my girlfriend." I liked when Puff's father goes berserk and ape-like when he sees the newspaper headlines saying "Kennedy Assassinated." I found it interesting to see Nathan sitting in what we assume is purgatory telling his story and asking if he is going to heaven or hell, or if he would have to tell his tale again. *SPOILER - The ending is hilarious when Puff gets together with Gabrielle after pretending to go back to nature. /*SPOILER
Overall, this is a good movie. Human Nature is funny, original, and has a message to give to the viewers. The film manages to pack all of this in 96 minutes, good for those of you with short attention spans. Forget Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay because that will create expectations too big for this movie to handle. This is a sleeper that everyone should check out.
I saw this movie on TV and was pleasantly pleased. It turned out better
than what I had expected. The best thing about the movie is the story.
Its all about human nature of sorts, About thing that people do and
choices they make given the circumstances.
All the actors fit their respective roles. Especially Rhys Ifans as Puff and Patricia Arquette as Lila. But unlike other movies there is never any breakthrough or memorable scene that one might later remember. The whole movie seems to be one single continuous piece but one doesn't realize that until after the movie.
I don't think that this movie also fits any particular genre. Even though it is set as a comedy, all the humor is too suttle to be branded as genuine comedy. I don't know what genre it is, all I know I that is good.
So, If you wouldn't fancy any particular genre of movies but want to watch a movie that will not make sad, angry or too confused about the plot and so on, Watch this.
There are many different kinds of movies. This is one of a rare species: a
film with a message. Other people might hear different morals when
it, or none at all, which is okay, too. But to me, Charlie Kaufman wants
tell us "deprive an adolescent of his right to a natural sexual
and you create a violent outburst".
Director Michel Gondry presents you a satire. The comedic element comes from grotesque, which is a relief after the all too juvenile teen movies that pathetically try to generate laughter by gross embarrassment and over-emphasized sounds of rearward body functions.
Instead of telling the story of average parents struggling to deal with their teenage son, you will find a) a woman with excessive body hair (in my view representing all your everyday discontent with your true self), and b) a man with an obsessive compulsion to demand perfect table manners (which of course stands for the misuse of parental power to force his unfounded views onto his "son")
The adolescent in this film being troubled by his sexual awakening is not the usual cool, hip, handsome high-school kid that all the real cool, hip,... okay-looking high-school-kids don't want to identify with anyway. It's Puff (Rhys Ifans), a young man who was raised by a deranged father to believe that he is an ape. This brings him in a situation not totally unlike that of a (human) teenager: somehow like the other humans, but being told that he's all weird and that everything he knows is suddenly wrong and bad. Eager to learn and please, he tries his best to conform, but to "control", that is, to ignore and deny his sexual curiosity, is just asking too much and he is forced to resort to deception.
It always amazes me how we Americans keep wondering why we have about 200x more shooting deaths than (other) civilized countries. One reason can be seen in the ratings for this particular film. Europe: around 12 (France: PG), USA: R, for it's hard to spot nudity. This is ironic confirmation of what the film is trying to draw attention to: by demonizing Puff's sexuality and using violence to suppress it, both Nathan and Lila become guilty of creating violence in turn.
For viewers who find this to be what this movie is about, I strongly recommend Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (Title 0310793 here on IMDB.com) only it is not so funny, because it's a documentary.
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