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Lila (Patricia Arquette) has a hormonal disability that makes her extremely hairy all over. In self-exile, she becomes a jungle bound but successful author. Now rich enough to afford an expensive hair removal specialist, she visits Rose ( who introduces her to the off-centre scientist Nathan (Tim Robbins), whose phobias about table manners stem from an over-strict upbringing. They each hide their flaws and go on a romantic picnic, only to discover a young man (Rhys Ifans) bought up by apes. Nathan wants to extend his etiquette experiment with mice to this wild creature, and in the process, is seduced by his laboratory assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto), complicating his affair with Lila. But the wild creature now christened Puff, after Gabrielle’s pet dog, responds to humanising treatment and becomes a suave charmer with his sex drive unabated. And that’s when the real trouble begins. 

Review by Louise Keller:
In the first few minutes of Human Nature, we meet mice in the wild pursued by eagles, a hairy, ape-like author whose life changes when a mouse looks at her, a feral being brought up as an ape now transformed into a genteel gentleman, and an obsessed, fanatic behaviourist hovering in purgatory questioning everything he knows. 

Bizarre? Oh yes. But when you see that it’s Charlie Kaufman’s pen at work, it is hardly a surprise. What a great dinner guest Kaufman would be! Just imagine where the conversation could lead between hors d’oevres and after dinner mints! His is a mind that just can’t help coming up with off-the-wall concepts that are not only outlandishly original, but invigorating, refreshing and certainly most entertaining. 

Human Nature takes society as we know it and throws up a myriad of question marks around everything that we readily accept. Why should we use the externally positioned fork for our salad? And why are women deemed attractive only if they are hairless? Is happiness really restricted to those who read Moby Dick, gaze at Monet and listen to Beethoven? Why should our sexual urges be stifled in order to conform to respectability or acceptability? Or is freedom truly just another word for ‘there’s nothing else to lose’? While all these questions are tossed up like a ripe salad in search of a good vinaigrette, Kaufman offers no answers, but an invitation (or a dare) to embark on slippery slide on a banana peel. 

Risky, totally insane, at times brilliant, and absolutely original, Human Nature is a trip. A wonderfully wacky, weird satirical comedy that is hit and miss. Some of it works beautifully, while other bits and pieces waver in the wind. But even though it may not gel entirely as a complete work, there are so many great ideas and madcap notions, this is a trip for the adventurous. Michel Gondry has taken the plunge to guide us on this racing circuit of madness. Superb editing and credible performances by a top cast allow us to take the leap. Tim Robbins is divine as the etiquette obsessed behaviourist, while Patricia Arquette is intensely brave as the electrolysis-addicted free spirit. As for Rhys Ifans, he is such a scene stealer… what can I say? Then there’s Miranda Otto as the pseudo French research assistant, who is always in a state of undress. My favourite scenes show Rhys Ifans locked in his glass cell in training for his release into the world at large. There he sits in a mock-up of an opera house balcony, whispering to a plastic dummy seated beside him and projecting his ‘bravos’ for the imaginary artists, as the music fills the room. Human Nature is a compelling mix of the outlandish. I admire it’s originality; I enjoyed its absurdity; its humour tickles my love for the audacious.

The special features are modest but entertaining, and finding the heart of the characters through the interviews is fun. The interviews (with cast and director Michel Dondry) are split up into sound bites, in which they each talk about various aspects of the character and script. I was especially interested in not only what Rhys Ifans had to say (‘Once you get your clothes off, there’s no where to hide…’), but also by his broad Welsh accent, which he had to hide and replace with a ‘weird’ American one. Miranda Otto, wearing a skimpy slip, talks about the experience, and Dondry calls the script a ‘sad-comedy with a hilarious script’. If you don’t have the patience to listen to all the interviews, just watch the feature, which includes words from the actors together with scenes from the film.
Published July 10, 2003

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CAST: Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Miranda Otto

DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry

SCRIPT: Charlie Kaufman

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 X 9 anamorphic widescreen; dolby surround

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette, cast & crew interviews, trailers


DVD RELEASE: (rental) July 9, 2003

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