Review of “human capital”: the server is in a coma. Tennis anyone?
What are we supposed to do with a movie like “Human Capital”? It opens up to a banquet hall waiter somewhere in Westchester who got off the road and fell into a coma, then spends the rest of his 97 minutes with the people who may have. The movie doesn’t care about the waiter or the family he used to come home to. The other characters don’t care either.
I could forgive the indifference, if we had been immersed in a hearty character exploration or a juicy moral essay. But maybe I’m asking too much of a film that wouldn’t bother to call itself something other than “Human Capital”.
The loose sources are an American novel (by Stephen Amidon) and a much better Italian film of the same name, from 2013. But the Italian film, which Paolo Virz led, had a deep instinct for the class. There were higher costs. The people inside were stranger, with sharper angles; they were alive. This new film, written by Oren Moverman, directed by Marc Meyers and featuring roles for Liev Schreiber and Marisa Tomei, is a study of a character who has not done his homework.
After the car hits the server, played in the blink of an eye by a charismatic Dominic Colón, the story jumps elsewhere. A real estate broker named Drew Hagel (Schreiber) leads his teenage daughter, Shannon (Maya Hawke), out with her boyfriend, Jamie (Fred Hechinger), in her family’s large concrete, stone and steel parsonage . Rather than go home, Drew languishes on the property. I knew I was there for a rough hour and a half when Jamie’s dad, Quint (Peter Sarsgaard), gets a load from Drew and, rather than saying “I like”Ray donovan! ‘ Or “What line of defense were you on? invites him to participate in the victory of a tennis match.
Drew is so fascinated by Quint and the hedge fund he manages that he takes out a $ 300,000 bridge loan to invest in it. Its application is riddled with financial hyperbole. But he needs to come in – so desperately, in fact, that he rejects a call from Shannon saying, “She’s just my girl.”
Schreiber plays this role as if there is depth to Drew. He gives him a strong New York worker accent. But the film doesn’t give him anything to play with. Nothing convincing. When Drew’s wife Ronnie (pitifully underused Betty Gabriel) tells him that she’s waiting for him, he seems unmoved. We are supposed to ask ourselves: East he thinks of Quint’s business? The risk in exercising a concern is that you may end up looking bored. Either way, it’s obvious the minute you hear Sarsgaard whistle his first line that Drew’s 300K has nowhere to go but south.
Just when I thought I couldn’t take Drew’s desperate choices any longer, Moverman changes perspective and moves on to Tomei, who plays Jamie’s mom, Carrie – hair, shades, fur, a touch of snoot. We watch her spend a day – she visits her mentally absent mother, buys clothes and, for fun, a decrepit old movie theater. (“The kids have never seen ‘Singing in the Rain’!”)
This is the most successful stretch of the film. Maybe because it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conjure up “the life of a rich and unhappy woman.” Books and soaps have it for centuries. Give her someone sexy to flirt with, give her a hard blow, let Marisa Tomei play the part. I’m not sure if she’s having a good time here, but she certainly seems invested and connected to anyone she shares a scene with.
It is not enough, however. Eventually the script moves on to a third POV which is supposed to deepen the first two. All there is to say about it is it’s about Alex Wolff, who played the tortured son in “Hereditary” and knows how to wrest drama even from a food tragedy. He’s pretty much the only person here who can. Wolff is spared the rest of the cast’s moans like, “All this anxiety is palpable” and “human misery is an indicator of profit” and “when did the elite become such a dirty word?” By the way, none of this has anything to do with the server. Do you remember him ?
The movie might argue that making it negligible is all the point. But the filmmakers don’t seem interested in a real class crisis. This is a thread. And the more time he spends ignoring it, flirting with his accident, the better convinced I am.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 35 minutes.