Want to make your own films? It will really help if your husband
is one of the richest guys, one of the biggest box-office draws and
one of the best-liked guys in the film business. The Human Contract
marks the debut of Jada Pinkett Smith as the author of a full-length
screenplay, as well as her debut as the director of a feature-length
film. She and husband Will produced the film.
A massive conglomerate is looking to buy a boutique advertising
agency and convert it to an in-house advertising/marketing
department. Two agencies will pitch head-to-head for the account.
The head of one of the ad agencies is confident that his young
marketing genius will have the right ideas, but is not so sanguine
about the whiz kid's private life. The conglomerate is an
ultra-conservative family firm which has built a squeaky clean image
upon a "family values" platform, but our hero is about to get
divorced, seems to have some dark secrets, and has an explosively
He also runs into a major complication in the days running up to
the big presentation. A beautiful, free-spirited woman seduces him,
and leads him into sexual adventures which would scotch the deal if
the lily-white conglomerate found out about them. To make matters
worse, she is a married women, which would be a total deal-breaker.
Will he be able to keep his life under control long enough to
close the big deal?
Jada Pinkett played a little game with this script. She set it up
as an erotic thriller. About thirty minutes into the film, it seems
obvious that the seductress must be working for the opposing agency,
trying to discredit our hero in the eyes of the conservative
conglomerate. This becomes even more apparent when she insists on
filming some of their adventures. Then it turns out that is not the
case at all, and the film plays out as a serious (if contrived)
drama about a tragically doomed romance between wounded people.
There is good and bad news about laying out a film with that
strategy. The good news is that it is original and subverts genre
conventions, so the plot never really goes where one expects it to,
and that can be interesting. The bad news is that it makes the
entire set-up a waste of time, in essence a very long red herring.
The big competition between the two agencies is never used as part
of the plot. The film would play out exactly the same if the second
agency did not exist at all. The seductress just turns out to be a
quirky, free-spirited woman who is trying to get through the
defenses of an uptight corporate soldier. That's all.
There is also a second storyline involving the executive's family
- a mother with a tragic past, and a sister with an abusive husband.
All of that heavy drama folds together uneasily with the erotic
relationship, at least until the erotic relationship becomes just as
laden with tragedy. Frankly, the entire film just doesn't work. The
erotica is not original, nor very erotic. All of the main characters
are unsympathetic. The secrets are not very interesting, and their
revelation is downplayed, generating nothing more than a reaction of
"That's it? So what?" There is never a clear connection between the
main character's dark secrets and his present unhappiness. Parts of
the exposition prove to have been unnecessary (like the second ad
agency). Worse than unnecessary, those parts are boring. Finally,
the payoff is flat, and the resolution of the romantic relationship
is unsatisfying in many ways.
The Smith's money was enough to get her the jobs and the budget,
but it was not persuasive enough to land a theatrical distribution
deal. Obviously, a lot of potential distributors had the same kinds
of reactions I had to this odd film, thus forcing it straight to
video. Nonetheless, there were things I admired about The Human
Contract. The sets are interesting, and the visuals are sometimes
spectacular. The script tries to deal with complex and profound
ideas, and some scenes do work well on their own, even if they don't
quite seem to be part of a master plan.
I get the feeling that Jada has talent and may make and/or write
Unfortunately, this is not one of them.