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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Dennis Quaid
Ellen Page
Thomas Haden Church
Sarah Jessica Parker
Ashton Holmes.
Directors
Noam Murro.
Screenwriters
Mark Poirier.
Running Time
95 minutes

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Smart People
Not as smart as they think they are


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Plot
College professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Quaid) is not having an easy time. The widower must deal with his aggressively over-achieving daughter (Page), layabout adoptive brother (Haden Church) and his growing feelings for his doctor (Parker). And he persistently refuses to make things easy on himself…


Review
Smart People

In the early 90s, the big trend in US independent filmmaking was the heist-gone-wrong. Nowadays, if you’re a director with any pretensions to cool, you’d better be making a drama, with bleakly comic elements, about a highly intellectual family with massive personal issues. From Wonder Boys to The Royal Tenenbaums to The Squid And The Whale to this effort, it’s all about smartie-pants angst – and against such considerable competition, Smart People struggles to make an impact.

Dennis Quaid plays firmly against type as an arrogant, distant professor who’s so far out of touch with his feelings that he’s probably on another continent. He manages better than one might expect, but a couple of times he cracks that devilish grin and it puts him back to square one.

The rest of the cast, however, are mired in their usual roles, giving the film an air of predictability it shouldn’t have. Ellen Page is the aggressively intelligent daughter, determined to get a perfect grade-point average and the full clutch of extracurricular bonus points as she prepares for college. But she’s so emotionally retarded that she’s reading romance novels under cover of more intellectual fare and harbouring an inappropriately incestuous crush on her layabout adoptive uncle. He’s played by Thomas Haden Church and – as in Sideways – he has nothing to do but lounge and dispense wisdom advocating the value of chilling out occasionally. Their odd relationship seems based principally on the fact that he’s the one person not intimidated by her practically robotic drive, but it’s a compelling little aside that would make a better focus for the film than the ensemble drama we actually get.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jessica Parker struggles to make an impact as a doctor with commitment issues of her own who’s trying to act on her youthful crush on Quaid’s professor years after graduating, and A History Of Violence’s Ashton Holmes barely gets a look-in as the poetry-writing older brother.

In the end, while funny and occasionally, yes, smart, this feels cobbled together from elements of stronger films: the dispirited professor-writer and rain-sodden setting of Wonder Boys, the incestuous relationship excused by adoption of Tenenbaums, and the unpleasant malcontents of The Squid And The Whale. First time director Noam Murro hints that he might have what it takes, but he’ll need to do better next time to convince us of his smarts.


Verdict
Strong performances and a few laughs, but the story feels lazy next to superior efforts recently in the same genre.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Smart People
Empire Star Rating

Smart People, Dumb Review

It is a time of drought in the cinema just now, until Indy opens tomorrow. There is absolutely nothing of interest on at all, so when i decided to pick, in my humble opinion, the best of a poor bunch i was pleasantly suprised. I really enjoyed this film, it does have a somewhat skeletal plot but i enjoyed the development of all 4 main characters. I would recommend it if you had nothing else to do. it put a smile on my face. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by marty_mcfly84 at 13:51, 21 May 2008 | Report This Post


Smart People, No plot

Another example of a film with excellent character development, however, no plot. I expected S. J. Parker to try to overact and steal the spotlight, but her performance was great. Haden Church has such a distinctive voice and excellent comedic presence and timing. Too bad he couldn't really express that in this oppressively dull film. Ellen Page is great, her character taking on the sad, friendless, isolated life that her father inhabits. Quaid, carries the show with a subtle and at times h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JoseJones at 23:48, 17 May 2008 | Report This Post


Smart People

2"] Director: Noam Murro Screenwriter: Mark Poirier Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes Synopsis Into the life of a widowed professor (Quaid) come a new love (Parker) and an unexpected visit from his adopted brother (Church). Review The tagline of this new film from the producers of Sideways says "Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn.” Those are words from a movie, which needs to improve its screen writin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 16:59, 16 May 2008 | Report This Post


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