The Human Stain

Rated 2.0 A college professor (Anthony Hopkins), forced to resign under charges of racism and shunned by former colleagues, becomes involved with a working-class woman (Nicole Kidman) with a volatile ex-husband (Ed Harris). Written by Nicholas Meyer (from Philip Roth’s novel) and directed with stuffed-shirt dignity by Robert Benton, the film is ostentatiously literary and self-consciously “important.” There’s a lot of capital-A acting going on: Kidman pretending to be trailer trash, Gary Sinise pretending to be Jewish (as writer Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s stand-in) and Hopkins pretending to be … well, what he’s pretending to be. A talented cast and crew comport themselves like artistic ladies and gentlemen, but with oppressive, off-putting solemnity. The film feels like a homework assignment in “serious literature.”