By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 21, 2003 01:55 AM

Nicole Kidman’s latest movie, “The Human Stain,” costarring Anthony Hopkins, is not the shoo-in for the Oscars that some originally thought, reports Friday’s Wall Street Journal.

Based on the novel by Philip Roth (the author himself had labeled this book “unfilmmable”) and directed by Oscar winner Robert Benton (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Places in the Heart”), “Stain” tells the story of Coleman Silk, a 71-year-old disgraced academic who takes refuge in his New England town with a local cleaning woman.

Hopkins plays Silk, who harbors a deep secret from childhood, and Kidman plays the downtrodden cleaning lady, a casting choice that some critics have called unlikely.

But since its much-ballyhooed Toronto Film Festival premiere in early September, the Journal notes, the movie has lost some steam in its race to capture Academy Award attention, despite supportive reviews from Roger Ebert and Time magazine’s Richard Corliss.

“The Human Stain” was originally set to open in September, hot on the heels of the anticipated good word from Toronto. Instead, it will open next Friday, Oct. 31.

Though the Journal says the switch helped cause the movie’s launch to lose its momentum, a Miramax spokeswoman told the paper that the delay was done to allow more time to build Oscar buzz.