Friday, April 11, 2008

Movie Review: "Smart People"

Who's in It: Dennis William Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Philpotts Page

What It's About: Widowed professor tries to sell his book. Widowed professor flirts with former student, now his doctor. Widowed professor's loser adopted brother moves in to be his chaffeur. Widowed professor's daughter does a lot of things that aren't really important to the plot. In fact, not much happens that feels very relevant to anything.

What I Was Expecting: First time director. First time writer. Good cast. Trailer looked amusing.

What I Got: A disjointed mess. This film jumps around like you wouldn't believe. I threw out 3 of the storylines above and I can think of another 4 or 5 that they tried to squeeze in a 95 minute film. Some storylines are only hinted at in a scene or two and never addressed again (i.e., Sarah Jessica Parker's relationship problem). It seems to realize that the drama isn't all that dramatic and the humor isn't all that funny. So, when there's not much going on and it's not really going anywhere, they show us Church's bare ass. Audience chuckles. And here's the odd thing. The film is never boring even though it's never all that interesting. None of the plots and subplots are ever fleshed out into a real story. In fact, the film gives you the impression that there is a terrific 2 1/2 hour film sitting on a cutting room floor somewhere. I didn't like this movie as is, but if I hear about a much longer Director's Cut, I will definitely check it out.

Grade: D+

Oscar Potential: Zero. But it is the kind of film that the costumes subtly tell you a lot about the characters, but not the kind of costumes the Academy pays attention to.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. I can't help but wonder how much this film is hurt by the presence of Ellen Page. Her performance is just fine, but I think with the success of "Juno", the film was re-edited to beef up her part, when her part wasn't all that necessary to begin with.
  2. I have zero idea what the time frame of the film is, it appears to be over the course of months, but Sarah Jessica Parker, who gets pregnant at the beginning of the film, never shows.
  3. In reverse of the Ellen Page scenario, the part of her brother, I imagine, was probably a bigger part. It seems as if there was a stronger story with the son who writes poetry and the dad who is an English Lit professor. They don't go too deep into it.
  4. There is one great moment in the film towards the end. Church instructs Quaid to tell Parker, "I'm sorry. I love you." When Quaid finally says it, it's said as just one sentence, "I'm sorry I love you." It says volumes about the Quaid character at that moment and is about the only subtle moment in the film. It shows his guilt over being such a pain in the ass. As if to say, "I'm sorry to do this to you. I know being in your life will make you miserable at times, but as long as I'm there, I won't be miserable too." And they did it in 5 words.
  5. Quaid's performance is all over the place. Sometimes great, as in the line just described. Sometimes you wonder if he's playing some sort of crazy recluse, Maybe he is, but it doesn't quite fit.

Trailer Park:

Blindness – If this film is half as good as the trailer looks, it could very well upend the Oscars this year because it's about as non-Oscar as you get. The director of "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" does this film about a woman (Julianne Moore) who fakes being inflicted with a virus that causes blindness, a virus that inflicts her entire town in one night, in order to take care of her husband (Mark Ruffalo). The dramatic potential is huge as the people who can see are shipped off to safety from the virus. The blind are left to fend for themselves. The book it's based on is by a Pulitzer Prize winner who is known for his allegorical work, so it's potential to be something really deep, and given the director, it probably is.

No comments: