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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Relationships > The Human Contract (2008/Sony DVD)

The Human Contract (2008/Sony DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: C



Jada Pinkett Smith is not always appreciated as the actress and talent she is.  After notable supporting work, Set It Off (1996) showed how well she could hold her own and slowly began her ascension into being more than just another pretty face or a strictly commercial actress.  Picking and choosing carefully, I was curious and interested in the fact that she was writing and directing her first feature film.  Though the resulting work The Human Contract (2008) does not seem to be able to finish out on all the ideas it begins, it has its moments.


The idea of the title is that we are set into certain society roles that affect everything we do, including our relationships; all the way down to the way we handle our intimate relationships.  The film has no problems dealing with human sexuality.  Julian (Jason Clarke) is up for a potential big promotion at work, supported by his boss (Ted Danson), but he has some unresolved issues and they are about to catch up with him.


This partly involves the intersection between male sexual aggression and violence, which is rarely addressed by any female directors and hardly ever otherwise.  Though it is not apparent at first, Julian is more of a snap out kind of guy, made all the more interesting by being made a sympathetic character for the first few reels of the film.  There is also his intense relationship with a beautiful married woman named Michael (Paz Vega in a potentially star-making role) and even when the narrative side of the film fails, Pinkett Smith’s attention to what we might call “heterosexual details” in male/female relationships hold some serious promise for a directorial career if she can expand on this while still holding a narrative more together.


Some of that ability is writerly, others readerly, but it is something new and fresh that is enough to make me want to see her follow up this film with material in a similar territory.  Though the film eventually gets away from her and ends too abruptly, The Human Contract could mark the interesting beginnings of something big in the way the Buckingham/Nicks album began to foreshadow that duo’s entry into Fleetwood Mac, i.e. the more interesting aspects became part of a big launch into impressive new work.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image can look good, but is too often soft throughout despite consistent color and good composition by Director of Photography Darren Genet, so I would like to see a Blu-ray to compare sometime.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also on the quiet and dialogue-driven side, though the surrounds do kick in at times.  Extras include a feature length Pinkett Smith/Genet commentary and two featurettes no the film: The Human Experience and Roll Of Film.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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