September 2, 2008, on DVD
The appeal of Smart People was initially Dennis Quaid as a depressed sad-sack-of-a-man and Ellen Page as his equally dysphoric daughter. With Thomas Haden Church as one more element seemed to me a perfect mix for a subtly humorous indie. And the movie is funny, but sometimes it’s so subtle and so purposefully dry that the film comes across as a pretentious “indie”. I wanted much more from the movie. I wanted the story to move into something greater. But I also must give credit to the writers for telling a simple story that, honestly, mirrors real life.
Smart People chronicles a short moment in time when the members of one family choose (and are forced) to move beyond the death of their matriarch after a lifetime of shutting down. That the story is honest and revealing is its credit; that it tells the tale with no passion is its downfall. The actors, despite the dreary tone of the film, are all excellent, and do elevate the film to a higher level. Quaid is especially impressive, his body language and facial expressions betraying every emotion of the character’s misery. Church is quietly hilarious in a way I came to truly love. Sarah Jessica Parker, as Quaid’s eventual love interest, is also interesting for her portrayal of a completely different type of misery. For these performances, Smart People is a decent film worth the time if your mood is right.
image from Rotten Tomatoes