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A Word with Aramide

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The Intensity Of 'Human Capital' Fizzles In The End

The Intensity Of 'Human Capital' Fizzles In The End

As human beings, we'd like to think that the decisions we make stand alone. We pretend that our choices in no way affect our loved ones or the strangers whose lives' circle ours. The truth is, our fates are more intertwined then we would like to admit. Based on Stephen Amidon's 2004 novel, Marc Meyers' Human Capital shows how the lives of several families can collide against one another. 

The film opens with a tragedy—a cyclist, someone's father and husband, is sideswiped as he's riding home from work. Though the motorist sees him—they ride off, living him for dead on the side of the road as if he were a squirrel or roadkill. Meyers then pulls us back in time, and we begin to meet the people whose lives are irrevocably changed as a result of the accident.

First, there's Drew (Liev Schreiber)— a middle-class real-estate agent drowning in debts and struggling to get by. Desperate to be more, make more money—or simply to feel included, he becomes enthralled, almost to the point of obsession with Quint (Peter Sarsgaard). Quint's son, Jamie (Fred Hechinger) is dating Drew's daughter. Shannon (Maya Hawke). With new changes on the horizon in his small family and with his wife, Ronnie (Betty Gabriel)-- Drew goes against the advice of everyone he knows, hastily investing in Quint's elite hedge fund.

Though the lives of the wealthy and elite often look pristine from the outside, we all know that they are typically cracked and fractured once you peer a bit closer. Quint's company isn't exactly having the best quarter. His long-suffering wife Carrie (Maresi Tomei) is sad, bored and lonely— and his son, Jamie is harboring a secret.

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The first two acts of Human Captial are beautifully paced and measured. Meyers points his lens at each character, unpacking their motivations and desires while pulling the tension of the dramatic thriller tauter. It's enthralling to watch people dive headfirst into traps of their own making, allowing their very worse compulsions and instincts lead them. 

Amid a revelation from Jamie and her parents' own significant life changes, Shannon falls for a new guy, Ian (Alex Wolff) However, because we sit with Quint, Drew, Carrie, and even Jamie for so long in the front end of the film—when we arrive at Shannon's perspective in the final act, Human Capital falters. Though we understand a bit of Shannon's background through Drew, Ronnie and Jamie, Meyers does not sit with her long enough for the audience to connect with her--let alone Ian. 

Dark, bearded, and alluring—it's clear why Shannon is almost immediately enamored with Ian. However, their "romance" is stuffed in a quick handful of scenes that don't give the audience enough depth or time to connect with them. For her part, Shannon lacks boundaries and loyalty means nothing her, which makes empathizing with her difficult. Though she and Ian are both fragile people, their motivations remain unclear so the audience never really cares about either of them. Therefore, as things come to a head, the foundation that Meyers so beautifully laid out in the first hour of the film does not stand.

Dark, bearded, and alluring—it's clear why Shannon is almost immediately enamored with Ian. However, their "romance" is stuffed in a quick handful of scenes that don't give the audience enough depth or time to connect with them. For her part, Shannon lacks boundaries. It’s clear that loyalty means nothing her, which makes empathizing with her difficult. Though she and Ian are both fragile people, their motivations remain unclear so the audience never really cares about either of them. Therefore, as things come to a head, the foundation that Meyers so beautifully laid out in the first hour of the film does not stand. 

With 95 minute run-time, Meyers is required to do quite a bit in Human Capital. The sheer amount of characters in the film need a great deal of examination. However, the last act of the film does not have the intensity or character development that was so carefully laid out in the first two acts. Therefore, the film's climax doesn't really pay off. Instead, when the dust settles and all is said in done, we are left to wonder why were even supposed to be enthralled with these people to begin with. 

Human Capital premiered Sept. 10 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Image: Toronto International Film Festival.

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