The Human Contract



Chicago International Film Festival

CHICAGO -- Smoldering sensuality and dark deep secrets erupt in this impressive first film from Jada Pinkett Smith.

World premiering here at the 44th annual Chicago International Film Festival, "The Human Contract," indeed, seems like a foreign film -- it's mature, character-driven and stylish. A savvy distributor will sign this "Contract" as soon as possible as the film seems a certain hit on the select-site/platform circuit.

Paz Vega does a smoldering turn as an adventurous, independent-minded woman named Michael. She's got obvious scars, physical and emotional, which she assuages with a torrid sex life and open relationship with her broad-minded artist husband (Steven Brand).

In this smart psychosexual drama, Michael entices Julian (Jason Clarke), a repressed and successful marketing whiz, to deviate from his workaholic rut: With her sultry accent and provocative allure, Michael explodes Julian's contained world. Is she a femme fatale or a guardian angel? Julian can't figure it out, but she's clearly a force of nature who is either giving him life or destroying his world. Or both?

"Contract" delves deep into the psyches of our two lovers but also escalates into a probing examination of contemporary relationships. Overall, Pinkett Smith's narrative posits that the legal contracts and societal mores that shape and define our personal worlds can be not only confining but also deadening.

Clarke's steely performance as a man who struggles with the denial of his deepest fear is well forged. It's also masterfully contained, paired against the daunting sensual power of Vega's presence. Supporting performances also are rich, including smart turns by Ted Danson as a ruthless businessman and Pinkett Smith as an abused woman.

Illuminated with torrid snatches of scarlet and drenched by an anxiously lush musical score, "Contract" is sexy. It rises far above the humdrum filmmaking one often endures from actors who become directors. Pinkett Smith clearly understands cinematic aesthetics, and her bold storytelling bespeaks the skill of a veteran filmmaker.

Highest praise to her technical team, especially cinematographer Darren Genet for his luminous sheen and provocative compositions and editor Michael Trent for his kinetic cuts. Composer Anthony Marinelli's robustly brittle score and production designer Carlos Barbosa's apt furnishings further illuminate the characters' psychology.

Production: Overbrook Entertainment, Tycoon Entertainment, 100% Womon.
Cast: Jason Clarke, Paz Vega, Idris Elba, Steven Brand, Joanna Cassidy, Jada Pinkett Smith, Ted Danson, T.J. Thyne, Anne Ramsey.
Director-screenwriter: Jada Pinkett Smith.
Producers: Mike Jackson, Miguel Melendez, Dawn Thomas.
Director of photography: Darren Genet.
Production designer: Carlos Barbosa.
Music: Anthony Marinelli.
Costume designer: Rhona Meyers.
Editor: Michael Trent.
No rating, 107 minutes.

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