Saturday 22 July 2023

Movie Review: The Humans (2021)

Genre: Drama
Director: Stephen Karam
Starring: Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, June Squibb
Running Time: 108 minutes

Synopsis: In New York City, a family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner at the dank and old Chinatown apartment just rented by Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her partner Richard (Steven Yuen). In attendance are Brigid's sister Aimee (Amy Schumer); their parents Erik and Deirdre (Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell); and Erik's senile and wheelchair-bound Momo (June Squibb). Insecurities, frustrations, old arguments, and new revelations surface throughout the evening. 

What Works Well: Director Stephen Karam adapts and directs his own play, and uses patient static cameras to capture a lower middle class family caught in a web of dissatisfaction. Past traumas (including from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks) and truths left unsaid compete for attention with blurted-out grievances. The aesthetic of sickly yellows complements a delipidating apartment with exposed pipes, non-functional lights, and signs of water damage, a metaphor for personal dynamics beset by hurts well past the point of scrubbing.

What Does Not Work As Well: Individual dramas remain just that, and the narrative lacks an overarching focus beyond the mundane. The slow pacing, layers of personal prickliness, and some in-the-dark scenes are ultimately suffocating, and excessive time is invested staring at walls and windows, hinting at but never delivering elevated levels of suspense.

Conclusion: Neither more nor less engrossing than the next family's accumulated complexities.

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