You will find more nuance in director Marc Meyers’ previous film, “My Friend Dahmer,” than his latest, “Human Capital.”
The first clue that the screenplay is weak occurs when virtual strangers meet and instantly become involved in each other’s extremely separate lives. For the audience, you wonder why we are so focused on Liev Schreiber’s modestly interesting, average American character, then you realize the narrative is going to rewind and start over from two different perspectives.
The melodrama quickly reveals itself as something better suited for television than on the big screen at the Toronto Film Festival. By the end, “Human Capital” feels more like one of Jason Reitman’s lesser films (“Men, Women & Children”). Even up-and-coming stars Maya Hawke (“Stranger Things”) and Alex Wolfe (“Hereditary”) can’t inject enough energy into this forgettable flick.
Real estate broker Drew (Liev Schreiber) finds himself on a millionaire’s property, thanks to his daughter’s boyfriend. Quint (Peter Sarsgaard) tells the curious Drew, his “invisible” money is made through hedge funds. Drew wants in, lying and fudging figures, so he can shortcut himself out of debt while also preparing for twins on the way.
Quint’s life isn’t what it seems — from another perspective we see his wife Carrie (Marisa Tomei) tolerating a husband who cheats in business and in marriage.
Drew’s teenage daughter Shannon (Hawke) is harboring a dark secret. She is the main reason all these families are now in each other’s lives. Three extremely different households, with nothing in common, now bound by one huge mistake.
The glaring issue here is that “Human Capital” isn’t intellectually stimulating. Never does it scratch below the surface. These characters have so many decisions to make, but the script bypasses them in an effort to prevent pulling the audience into any moral dilemma.
You get what you get out of the story, nothing more, nothing less. The actors do little to improve upon what’s on the page. The characters are one-sided without depth outside fleeting dramatic interludes. Aside from Drew’s character, there isn’t much for the audience to identify with.
Wolfe’s edgy, bearded look shows up in act three; unfortunately, the hook hasn’t sunk in deep enough in the first two acts to care much about this new character in the screen time that’s left. His typecasting here against his breakout role in “Hereditary” is another soft point.
“Human Capital” thinks it’s more groundbreaking than it actually is. Nearly laughable at certain moments, leading to a conclusion that’s so neatly tied up that whatever substance or interest the film had up to that point goes right out the window.
The ending isn’t earned; the climax is a let-down. The audience gets little or nothing to chew on, and there are little to no cinematic elements to focus on; editing, score, cinematography... all forgettable.
Thankfully it’s not boring, and “Human Capital” might get watched more now, with everyone shut in at home, than it ever would on a big screen or under normal circumstances. It’s certainly something you’d watch out of a lack of choices, which is most of us right now.
Final Thought: “Human Capital” is a human interest drama without much interest.