Director Robert Benton's quietly compelling adaptation of Philip Roth's novel "The Human Stain" has two conspicuous problems: The very beginning and the very end, both of which are such arrant cinematic affectations that I knew immediately -- without ever having read the book -- the scenes were supplements of the screenplay.

The film opens with a flash-forward revealing its two main characters in a car crash on an icy road. This disclosure has the opposite of its intended effect -- it squelches half the story's escalating tension because you already know what's coming, even if you don't immediately know the ultimate fate of the people in the car.

The faux pas at the end of the picture is that Benton overshoots a perfect finale (the last scene from the novel, I've since learned) for the sake of a heartstring-tugging Hollywood epilogue.

Continue reading: The Human Stain Review