Human Capital (2019)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on September 11, 2019 @

Human Capital is a well-made soap opera. Rinse, repeat.

The story - divided into three different sections - is about experiences of characters that interlink. It's told from three different viewpoints.

All of the characters are affected by a hit-and-run accident at night that happens at the beginning. It has ramifications, but the lives of the characters are troubled, beyond the accident.

An awards dinner is a focal point.

Adapted from a novel, published in 2004, by film critic Stephen Amidon, Human Capital previously was made into an Italian film in 2013. The new version of the film, with a screenplay by Oren Moverman, returns the characters to their names in the original novel, but it lacks the satire of the novel and the social criticism of the Italian film. It's mostly a character study.

Human Capital checks the contemporary boxes. Gay son, check. Inter-racial marriage, check. Therapy, check. Selfish businessman, check.

The dialogue is undistinguished, and becomes pretentious especially when a young couple Shannon (Maya Hawke) and Ian (Alex Wolff) converse.

But the strength of the film is the acting. Human Capital has a strong cast of able actors. They bring their credibility to the film.

Liev Schreiber, who portrays realtor Drew Hagel, has a pensive look that is better than any dialogue. But he may be miscast, because he does not seem like an out-of-his-depth social climber. He still engages our interest.The film is less solid when he is off the screen.

Peter Sarsgaard, as the fierce hedge-fund manager, and Marisa Tomei, as his frustrated wife, are both effective. The young actors - Maya Hawke as Drew's daughter, Alex Wolff as a drug offender, and Fred Hechinger as a confused son of a wealthy couple, all contribute. Betty Gabriel as Drew's wife survives in a thankless role.

Director Meyers has the challenge of bringing the three sections together. They are not quite muddled, but are somewhat disconnected. Meyers makes a viable choice with the music of Marcelo Zarvos. The score is simple and emphasizes piano.

Human Capital obviously is a film for 2019. If the film had been made in the 1970s, it would reek with irony.

But there is no irony. Instead there is fabric softener.

It all ends with soft uplift: birth, gay acceptance, and romance.

And also at the end, Schreiber's character and Tomei's character look into the distance without purpose.

An ironist might have ended with Peggy's Lee singing, "Is That All There Is?"

© 2000-2019 Tony Macklin