Urban canyons in the bleak part of Manhattan’s Chinatown. Looking up only reveals narrow, geometric sections of the sky lined with dark walls and jagged fires escaping in light-free backyards. In one of these dilapidated homes, Bridge (Penny Feldstein) and boyfriend Rich (Stephen Yeun, Oscar nominee for “Minary: Where We Put Our Roots”) have just moved into a makeshift apartment they can’t afford.
The digital fireplace provides virtual warmth, and the furniture hasn’t been delivered yet, but they’ve invited their families to Thanksgiving dinner at home: Bridge’s father, family patriarch Eric (Richard Jenkins), his wife (Jane Hodichel), their sister Amy (Amy Schumer) and her crazy grandmother Momo ( John Squibb), who was drugged into a wheelchair and propelled across an impassable apartment like a piece of furniture.
Legendary destructive festivals have already been celebrated in cinema, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and thanksgivings. People gathered together to hit and kiss on occasion: “Das Fest” by Thomas Winterberg, “Rachel’s Wedding” by Jonathan Demme, “M August in Osage County” by John Wells, and “April Cuts” by Peter Hedges, to choose a few gems from family disintegration. This now also applies to the three generations of the Blake family.
Patriarch Eric is the first there, researching and criticizing the situation and condition of the apartment more or less, getting over the rumbling noise from above and having to lean against the patio window to receive the cell phone. The house is alive, writhing, groaning, moaning and gurgling. Skins of paint and plaster on the walls ripple, swell and burst in a strange organic way, like festering wounds. The tubes visible everywhere resemble clogged, brittle veins and arteries.
The house has festering wounds, and so is the family
The structure of the building reflects the psychological state of all family members with their various existential crises and feelings of guilt and inferiority after termination, separation and affairs. She develops a life of her own, even with hints of the horror genre. The house itself is the protagonist, constantly aligned with the camera, with its views from non-human perspectives, at the feet and legs of the chair and the edges of the doors, with extreme detail and flashing light reflections. It listens and eavesdrops on residents and guests when they are out of sight.
In his first feature film, Stephen Karam portrayed his own Tony-winning play, as room acting in the field of tension between long shots and intense close-ups, between sharpness and blurriness. In doing so, he expelled theatrical artificiality from his material. Grandiose’s actors engage in verbal fights that are sometimes combative, sometimes subtly mischievous, sometimes affectionate, a combination that is only possible between people who know each other well.
Jon Squibb—the long-dead and posthumous wife of retired Jack Nicholson in Alexander Payne’s film about Schmidt—plays a grandmother who falls asleep in a wheelchair with only occasional waking moments. Amy Schumer defies private and professional setbacks so in her first purely dramatic role, you can still get a feel for her comedic timing. Jane Hodeshell, who played the mother in the theatrical version, spoke about her decision to lose weight while shedding her frustration with the dipped biscuit.
But most impressive is Richard Jenkins, with his mixture of resignation, sarcastic humor and warmth, which he has mastered in new nuances since the “Six Feet Under” series: “Shouldn’t life cost less?” A young couple once confronted the superfood cult with a dry note that living forever isn’t worth it when things go really bad. At night he dreams of ghosts covered with skin, eyes and mouths, and during the day he praises his family and their unconditional support: “That’s what matters!” Destructive and comforting, despair and security are tragically close this evening.
Humans, USA 2021 – Directed and written, based on his own play: Stephen Karam. Camera: Lol Crowley. Fashion: Anne Roth. Starring Richard Jenkins, Jane Hodeshell, Amy Schumer, Benny Feldstein, Stephen Yoon, John Koepp. Leasing: Moby. 108 min. Broadcast start: August 12, 2022.
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