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USA / France 2001
Directed by
Michel Gondry
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Human Nature

Coming on the back of the hugely popular Being John Malkovich (1999) that was, like this, written by Charlie Kauffman and which was directed by Spike Jonze, who is a co-producer here, this first feature by Michel Gondrey did not have anywhere near the same level of success. This is not altogether difficult to understand as it did not have any big name stars (Tim Robbins is fairly big but more as a name than a star) and as a satire it is more anachronistically Swiftian in its absurdity than hiply contemporary and many would have found it simply laborious and discomfiting in its ludicrous premise. Kauffman and Gondry, however, get it to work and those with whom it clicks will love it.

Patricia Arquette plays an attractive woman whose body is covered with hair and who lives in the forest and writes nature books. She decides get electro-dialysis in order to catch a man who turns out to be a neurotic scientist (Tim Robbins) who is teaching table manners to mice. 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 as ""Puff" he is slowly inculcated in the ways of civiliziation. Nathan however falls for Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) his fake-French assistant and the spurned Lila returns to nature with Puff.

Kauffman's script is wonderfully weird in conception and amusingly witty in execution whilst the consistently excellent cast perform their allotted absurdities with straight-faced aplomb and Gondry (one can thanks heavens that Steven Soderbergh, who was originally to direct this, left the project) delivers the package with evident but suitably measured, tongue-in-cheek style. And yes, that is Hilary Duff standing in for a teenage Patricia Arquette.

 

 

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