The Humans is the type of movie that makes you want to jump through the screen. Not because the film has transported you and swallowed you up, but rather because you want a better seat and you want to tell everyone to speak up.
There’s so much potential for the character studies in Stephen Karam’s The Humans, an adaption of Karam’s Tony-winning play. Especially considering how dynamic the film’s small ensemble is (Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, June Squibb, Amy Schumer, Jayne Houdyshell), I was prepared to be swept up in family tension around their Thanksgiving get-together. But, with deep disappointment, The Humans didn’t work for me because the viewer’s perspective is always obscured. Considering Karam’s background in theatre, I suspect this extreme experimentation was the writer/director testing the bounds of his new medium as he was now able to search throughout this single location of a decrepit apartment.
However, as Karam should know, projection is key to performing and a new space is going to pose some challenges; such as long cement hallways creating more echos, and low-register voices can be muffled by walls and too much distance. Despite his experience as a director and playwright and adapting the play to his satisfaction, as a film, The Humans is an amateur effort that doesn’t truly adapt to fresh aesthetics.
It’s been reported that the original one-act play had notes of traumatic horror. The film features some of this through the pain of its characters, but the horror angle is never truly realized or explored. When we hear bumps and crashes from different parts of the house, the audience grows more annoyed and confused as to why the film is trying to cheapen itself to knee-jerk reactions. It simply doesn’t translate to viewers who have never seen the play.
Because of these strikes, The Humans continuously prevents itself from developing into anything interesting.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie