Human Nature

2002

Human Nature

Critics Consensus

As quirky as Being John Malkovich but not as funny, Human Nature feels too forced and unengaging.

49%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 94

61%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,456
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Movie Info

Video director Michel Gondry and scriptwriter Charles Kaufman -- who shot to fame after penning Being John Malkovich -- collaborate on this bizarre fable about human behavior in and out of society. The film opens by quickly introducing the three leads -- Lila (Patricia Arquette) who is locked away in prison; Puff (Rhys Ifans) who is testifying before Congress; and Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins) who is sitting in a glowing white afterlife waiting room with a bullet hole in his head. Rewinding to the beginning of the story, the film shows Lila as a girl about to enter womanhood. Unfortunately, puberty goes horribly awry and she starts to grow thick hair all over her body. After performing as Queen Kong in a circus freak show, she chucks it all and goes to live in the forest, where she becomes the best-selling author of a misanthropic hard-line ecological tome. At age 30, her itch for male companionship becomes overwhelming and she ventures back into the city. She is helped by electrolysis guru Louise (Rosie Perez), who not only makes Lila presentable to society, but introduces her to Nathan, a 35-year-old virgin who, as a scientist, has devoted his life to teaching table etiquette to lab mice. While showing Nathan the joys of the wild outdoors, Lila and her new beau discover an extremely hirsute feral man whom they dub Puff. Placing him a cage in his lab, Nathan sets out to teach Puff the ways of polite society while dreaming of fame and fortune. The first task is to curb Puff's enormous sexual appetite -- any time he catches sight of a female, Puff either tries to hump her or masturbates vigorously. Nathan yokes him with an electric collar that shocks him any time he acts unseemly. Unfortunately, the humans on the other side of the cage can't quite control their libidos either: Nathan succumbs to the incessant double entendres of his saucy French assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) while Lila finds an animalistic lust for Nathan's science experiment. This film was screened at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.

Cast

Tim Robbins
as Nathan Bronfman
Miranda Otto
as Gabrielle
Robert Forster
as Nathan's Father
Mary Kay Place
as Nathan's Mother
Toby Huss
as Puff's Father
Ken Magee
as Police Detective
Sy Richardson
as Police Detective
David Warshofsky
as Police Detective
Hilary Duff
as Young Lila
Bobby Harwell
as Congressman
Daryl Anderson
as Congressman
Bobby Pyle
as Young Puff
Anthony Winsick
as Wayne Bronfman
Mary Portser
as Bistro Waitress
Laura Grady Peterson
as Aversion Therapy Model
Angela Little Mackenzie
as Chester's Waitress
Jeremy Kramer
as Lecture Host
Nancy Lenehan
as Puff's Mother
View All

News & Interviews for Human Nature

Critic Reviews for Human Nature

All Critics (94) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (48)

Audience Reviews for Human Nature

  • Dec 03, 2012
    This movie's amateurish directing (Michel Gondry has done much, much better) and strangely stilted acting (despite some significant talent) detracts greatly from Charlie Kaufman's great, thought-provoking, deadpan script.
    Sam B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 27, 2011
    Its really something different. Kaufman is a genius but this direction he made for Human Nature asks a question but never fully answers it. It picks on human sexuality but never truly explores it. Its kind of an open ended question of a film.
    paul o Super Reviewer
  • Sep 16, 2011
    6.1/10 "Human Nature" almost works. It's ambitious and intriguing, but its one fatal flaw is that its reach seems to exceed its grasp; if only in small moments. There are times in the film where I felt content with the final product, but I always had the sense that it was imperfect. It's well-made and competently written by the masterful, observant, legendary Charlie Kaufman; and directed by Michel Gondry, who made his debut feature with this film. It's not the best way to come into the cinematic world, but I've seen so much worse. Gondry is able to exercise his unique visual craft in the movie, which is always nice. He is one of the most gifted, living cinematic magicians working in the business today, and to restrain him would also be to ruin him. He doesn't go all the way, but he goes somewhere nonetheless, and therefore I can almost say I was satisfied. But the more I thought, the less I liked "Human Nature". I continued to admire it and enjoy myself throughout; this is solid entertainment. But it also tries to be something more; something, perhaps, a little more thoughtful than most of its kind. It could be labeled as a comedy, and at that, it's better than most. It's often quite funny, and always amusing, but too often does it seem to confuse pleasure with depth and skillful writing. This is where it begins to trip, eventually falling to the ground. Yet, I still feel it's able to get back up again. A naturalist (Patricia Arquette) who has been plagued with a particularly hairy body her entire life, a passionate scientist (Tim Robbins), and a genuine man-ape (Rhys Ifans) all come together to form the story, and give it characters. The naturalist, named Lila, befriends scientist Nathan, and the two begin a romantic partnership. One day, they take a walk in the woods, and discover the mysterious man-ape, whom they call Puff. They take him back to the lab which Nathan runs, and proceed to study him for many days, many nights, and many months. Nathan is obsessive when it comes to his work with the peculiar man, and the tension only gets, well, tenser, when his sexy secretary comes into his life and starts up an unlikely love triangle that just keeps getting more complicated as the movie goes on. That's pretty much your story right there, or at least, it's all that I feel you need to know in order for you to make the ultimate decision: is it worth seeing? If you are intrigued by the basic idea behind the film, then I would strongly advise you to give it a shot. I quite enjoyed most of what it had to offer, the filmmaking talents behind it tried their hardest to make it work (and just barely failed to do so, in my opinion), and there's a certain whimsy to the film that cannot be put down or denied. It's not for everyone, and the slapstick tone certainly didn't agree with me for any more than half of the time, but when it's funny; it's actually pretty clever. It's a nice movie, because it gives us room to admire the film. I enjoyed the scenes of experimentation with mice, love-making in the wilderness (complete with surreal and pretty color schemes), and of course, any sequence involving Puff's growth from ape to "real" man. There are some good gags involving Nathan's strict, somewhat unsupportive parents, as well as many jokes pertaining to apes and how inappropriate life would be if we were still as primitive as they still are, but there's also plenty of repetition; and we've yet again come to another point of criticism surrounding the film. It's not bad, it's pretty well-acted, and there are some scenes that really stand out. Let's just say that if you like Michel Gondry, then it's worth seeing. This isn't Charlie Kaufman's best screenplay, nor is it anywhere near the quality of his later works, but I can appreciate "Human Nature" for what it is; all it takes is a nice step back. I can't say I recommend it, but by no means am I giving you a red flag NOT to see it. Tread these waters at your own risk, but just remember; even a mildly pretentious, ambitious, comedic mess can be somewhat beautiful, but still...not quite what you might expect from it.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2010
    A Kaufman film unlike his usual repertoire, the first pairing between himself and director Michael Gondry was a premature effort. The subtle humor was there, and the story was obviously solid, but the vibe of anachronisms that were flouted made for a less than interesting movie watching experience. Still, the performances by the main players were exceptional, especially the emotionally driven Rhys Ifans.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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