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Film / Human Nature

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Human Nature is a 2001 comedy film directed by Michel Gondry (his first feature film) and written by Charlie Kaufman. The cast includes Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Miranda Otto, Rosie Perez, and Peter Dinklage.

The film is about a man raised as an ape, a (very hairy) woman who chose to live as one and a doctor on a quest to teach animals table manners.

It had a limited release and only made a fraction of its budget at the box office.

This movie provides examples of:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Exaggerated. Nathan's therapy sessions lead his therapist to the most obvious, highly Freudian conclusions. Nathan commends the doctor's insight; the doctor is bewildered Nathan couldn't come to the same conclusions on his own.
  • Ambiguous Ending: As he rides off with Gabrielle, Puff shoots a look out the window that might indicate he's genuinely tempted to run off and actually live in the woods.
  • Child Supplants Parent: Puff grows up in the lab calling Nathan "father" and Gabrielle "mother." He plots to murder the former and bed the latter.
  • Downer Ending: Nathan gets killed by Puff and is indefinitely trapped in some kind of purgatory. Lila takes the fall and goes to prison so that Puff can continue living freely in nature. And Puff...doesn't do that. He instead returns to civilization to elope with Gabrielle, getting away with murder and not caring about what Lila did for him at all.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Both Lila and Puff have no qualms about shedding their clothes and tramping around naked due to their extended lives in the woods.
  • Nude Nature Dance: Initially, when Lila is still covered in body hair, and reprised once she has shed it.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Caught unawares in her apartment, Gabrielle reveals (to the viewer at least) that she is not truly French.
  • Pygmalion Plot: Nathan and Gabrielle together train Puff into acting human; Gabrielle falls for him.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: A relatively realistic example with Lila, who suffers from hypertrichosis.
  • Shock Collar: Lila fits Puff with one during her attempt to train him to live in nature again.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Nathan reasons that, "If I can teach animals table manners... I can teach humans table manners. Then I can make the world a better place."
  • Shameful Strip: Lila forces one on Puff, training him to return to the wild.
  • Spoof Aesop: Puff speaks to Congress about how civilization did not improve him. Played differently, this may have been the film's actual theme. But this scene immediately followed Lila, apropos of nothing, telling him "go testify before Congress on the waywardness of man!" and senators follow the speech by declaring, vaguely "we must pass some legislation on this matter." What's more, the film's ending implies that the Aesop was broken from the very beginning...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Very literally averted with the final shot in the movie, which shows the two white mice trying to hitch a ride back to New York.