JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Human Capital (Director: Marc Meyers) - January 15, 2020

Human Capital

4 4
95 min.

We all fall down

Throughout a lifetime, we are all faced with choices, related decisions, chance encounters and facing up to difficult truths (or embracing wilfull blindness). In Human Capital, all of these components weave the characters into a dark web that leaves almost everyone worse off than they were at the onset.

Marc Meyers’ remake of Paolo Virzì‘s 2014 Il capitale umano—set in Italy and based on the novel by Stephen Amidon—comes full circle back to the United States with Oren Moverman doing the honours superbly crafting the screenplay. The non-linear narrative technique works well, effectively providing back-story piece by piece and adding to the tension of unmasking a deadly hit-and-run driver.

After the inciting incident (a hapless waiter, cycling home, even wearing a sturdy helmet is hit and abandoned) asks more questions than may ever be fully answered, it falls to Liev Schreiber playing so-so realtor, Drew Hagel, to carry the first half of the production.

Shannon, Hagel’s daughter from his first marriage (given a performance that blossoms in the early going, then courageously dominates midway with thanks to the considerable acting skills of Maya Hawke), falls for Jamie (Fred Hechinger) whose millionaire dad runs a sketchy hedge fund: minimum investment $300,000. Peter Sarsgaard’s Quint Manning is convincingly greedy/demanding as the ruthless tycoon while his wife, Carrie, is served up with marvellously understated emotions by Marisa Tomei.

Naturally, Hagel wants in to the world of “18% returns”, but is forced to lie to the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to buy his way to easy street. And thus begins the avalanche of dishonesty and fabrication that turns the worlds of the Hagels and Mannings upside down.

In the chance encounter department, it falls to Shannon to conveniently need her step-mother’s housekeys, at Dr. Ronnie Hagel’s psychiatric practice, then love at first sight of mom’s next patient, Ian (Alex Wolff delivers a wide-ranging portrayal as the convicted drug dealer trying—at any cost—to avoid another trip to jail).

From there, many viewers may well wonder if Hagel has fallen off the face of the earth, as the new lovers’ past leading up to the climatic private school gala (where almost all of the principals share a table and are served by the late-night cyclist on his last shift ever) is laid bare.

The original music from Marcelo Zarvos is especially apt when piano and double bass underscore the proceedings. Kat Westergaard’s cinematography is inventive and angle-rich, helping the eye realize the back-and-forth events, ably put together by editors, Tariq Anwar and Alex Hall.

Meyers, along with his cast and crew, has artfully realized this cautionary tale of unexpected consequences when tempted by “too good to be true” opportunities or letting others take the fall no matter how innocent they are. Happily, pathetically, believably (or the newspapers would be empty), justice is meted out to all even as another new life begins the journey of doing what is right, or what is convenient. JWR

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Director - Marc Meyers

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