Comments on watching and making films.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Smart People

Smart People stars Dennis Quaid as Lawrence Weatherhold, an English professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, who has little interest in the lives of his students, or his children. After losing his wife suddenly, he retreats into the world of his own intellectual superiority, completely ignoring everything and everyone around him. His daughter Vanessa, played by Ellen Page, idolizes her father, and works towards being his intellectual equal, at the cost of any normal teenage life. His son James, played by Ashton Holmes, has accepted his fathers disconnected nature, and built his life away from his family.

When Lawrence has an accident, which leaves him unable to drive for six months, he grudgingly accepts his brother's offer to chauffeur him in exchange for free room and board. This ends up causing Lawrence a lot more pain than it takes away, when Lawrence becomes interested in the doctor who helped him in the ER, a former student of his, named Janet, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Vanessa, who, as I said earlier, idolizes her dad, becomes embittered with him when he begins dating the doctor, going so far as to make a pass at her uncle, who is adopted, and therefore not a blood relative (in her mind making it perfectly okay).

Smart People is, unfortunately a little to cookie-cutter indie for me. It feels like we've seen these characters before, seen this situation before, but with more humor and less recycling of the standard independent film bag of tricks.

Quaid's performance is confusing, and Parker's nothing to write home about, though Ellen Page continues to amaze with her ability to bring out the most interesting characteristics of someone who seems rather two dimensional. Thomas Haden Church is also funny as the adopted brother who comes to help Lawrence, though his performance is very reminiscent of a lot of the characters he has been playing lately.

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