Saturday, April 27, 2024

Caitlin Cronenberg’s Humane

If the future brings global starvation, we can blame Greenpeace. They successfully blocked the harvest of so-called “golden rice” in the Philippines. Genetically developed to solve the Vitamin-A deficiency in rice-based diets, the new strain could have saved millions of lives. All reputable scientific studies have established the safety of genetically-modified foods, but Greenpeace fear-mongered against it anyway. The world could use some golden rice in this dystopian film. Food is in such short supply, every nation has agreed to a “voluntary” euthanasia quota. Reportedly, America is lagging behind its death commitment, so it gets awkward when a “volunteer” tries to back out. In fact, an incredibly dysfunctional family finds they owe body to the government collection squad in Caitlin Cronenberg’s Humane, which is now playing in theaters.

Food is short and the ozone is shot, so the world government logically decides to kill off a good chunk of their populations. At least they are providing incentives for those who “enlist.” The media naturally bemoans the economic disparity in enlistment rates. However, Jared York and his second wife Mia are the exceptions. As a former war correspondent and a former celebrity chef, they are an unusually prominent couple to enlist. He just wanted to have a final dinner with his ingrate grown children before the Department of Citizen Strategy (D.O.C.S.)’s lethal injection team arrives.

The news comes as a shock to Rachel, the disgraced pharmaceutical exec, Ashley, the struggling actress, Jared, the enlistment-encouraging media commentator, and Noah, the adopted recovering addict. It turns out maybe their step-mother Mia wasn’t quite so convinced, because she suddenly bolts right before DOCS arrive. Unfortunately, the sociopathic Bob makes it clear his team must collect two bodies, so it is up to the York children to decide who the second “enlistee” will be.

Humane turns into Ready or Not, when Noah finds himself hunted by his siblings. The premise is questionable and the rapidity of their descent into savagery is jarringly precipitous, but at least Cronenberg wastes little time getting down to genre business. However, the most memorable characters are the villains. Jay Baruchel is spectacularly sleazy as the opportunistically hypocritical Jared and Enrico Colantoni is flamboyantly sinister as Bob.

Unfortunately, as the other three York siblings, Emily Hampshire, Alanna Bale, and Sebastian Chacon will make viewers believe there is also a shortage of personality in the future. Frankly, the most thoughtful and complex portrayal of a York comes from Peter Gallagher playing the patriarch.

Cronenberg (of the Cronenberg filmmaking family you know) keeps the family feuding pretty snappy. However, screenwriter-producer Michael Sparaga’s script has serious credibility issues. Julian Simon definitively debunked Malthusian doomsaying years ago—and his analysis still holds up. Of course, that was before Greenpeace declared war on the developing world’s population. Granted, nobody should be looking to dystopian horror-ish thriller, but there are far too many boring characters. Not good enough to recommend,
Humane is now playing in Manhattan at the Alamo Drafthouse.