Human Nature

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Tim Robbins, Ken Magee, Sy Richardson
Director: Michel Gondry

HUMAN NATURE is the latest addition to the decidedly off-kilter oeuvre of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, ADAPTATION). Ostensibly a love quadrangle it is the oddball nature of the protagonists that marks this out as unusual. Patricia Arquette stars as the unnaturally hirsute Lila who falls in love with Nathan (Tim Robbins), an anal and repressed psychologist. Completing the unlikely foursome are Nathan’s assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) who, for reasons unexplained, pretends to be French, and the subject of his latest case study: Puff (Rhys Ifans), a man who was raised in the wilderness as an ape.

The story is told in flashback by an amusingly eloquent Puff and an amusingly dead Nathan; in passing it acknowledges issues such as man’s inhibitions in the face of naturism and naturalism, but mostly it is just an excuse for Kaufman’s oddball indulgences. There are some funny one-liners and a couple of nice pastiches (Arquette’s Disneyesque singalong is a hoot), and the lightweight plot should just about hold the interest of most viewers without alienating those who found Kaufman’s previous efforts too much like hard work.

3 out of 6 stars