There is no fun in a dysfunctional ‘human’ family


Rated R. on Showtime

Grade: C-

Based on the 2016 Tony Award-winning play written and directed by playwright Stephen Karam, “Humans” are like the unfamiliar version of the Addams family you’ve ever seen. Meet the Blakes of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Or, if you have any sense, don’t do it. Eric Blake (Richard Jenkins) struggles to maneuver the wheelchair that contains his elderly mother Momo (John Squibb), whose mind has been emptied by dementia. He lodges her in a depressing, albeit also large, apartment in midtown Manhattan for his daughter Brigid (Penny Feldstein) and boyfriend Richard (Stephen Yeon). The setting is the Overlook Hotel for the movie, if the Overlook Hotel was a pre-war duplex in downtown New York City with devious electrical appliances and strangely swollen paint blisters filled with untold substances seeping from where God knows best. The entire structure is like a ticking bomb, massively and in fact.

Brigid’s sister Amy (Amy Schumer) just broke up with her lesbian friend and has a condition that makes her (also dodgy) bathroom use frequently (“humans” have a litter fixer). We remember that Chinatown, where the apartment is located, was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Certainly, another catastrophe could not be far away. The ghosts of 9/11 also loom in the vicinity.

The assembled family members sing a hymn about Jesus. A little bit of obscene graffiti on the elevator as a contrast. The family gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving at Brigid’s new place. But they do not have furniture, so tables, utensils, plates, pots and pans must be provided. Eric’s wife and mother Brigid and Amy Deirdre (Jane Hodeshell, the only cast member in the play) are concerned about her weight. But as Brigid points out unkindly, Deidre empties the farm and binges and talks with her mouth full. Amy is wrecked by her breakup and is on the phone with her ex, which makes her even more devastated. At regular intervals throughout “The Humans,” the characters (and the audience) are frightened by sudden noises, heavy shocks from the apartment above, a demonic trash compactor, and pigeons suddenly flying away, flapping their wings resoundingly. The apartment building is truly one of the movie’s characters, and perhaps, like the aforementioned Overlook, the most threatening one. It may have been fitting that Deidre brought a statue of the Virgin Mary for Brigid as a housewarming gift. We hear about a comic book in which Space Demons believe humans are monsters (they are). More things get stuck at night. More scandalous discoveries appear on the horizon, including unabashedly the most trivial one. We wait for the building to speak the words, “Get out.” I definitely wanted to get out. Eric studied for over 30 years in a Catholic school. It turns out that the school has a particularly non-Christian moral clause. Nobody in the talented cast really shines because the material is relentlessly monotonous and pessimistic. Do we really need more of these dysfunctional family indie films?

(“The Humans” contains profanity and sexual themes)

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