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» SmartCine Movie Review - Smart People

Review by Cine Marcos, published on April 9, 2008

SYNOPSIS: Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (DENNIS QUAID) might be imperiously brilliant, monumentally self-possessed and an intellectual giant – but when it comes to solving the conundrums of love and family, he’s as downright flummoxed as the next guy. His collegiate son (ASHTON HOLMES) won’t confide in him, his teenaged daughter (ELLEN PAGE) is an acid-tongued overachiever who follows all too closely in dad’s misery-loving footsteps, and his adopted, preposterously ne’er-do-well brother (THOMAS HADEN CHURCH) has perfected the art of freeloading. A widower who can’t seem to find passion in anything anymore, not even the Victorian Literature in which he’s an expert, it seems Lawrence is sleepwalking through a very stunted middle age. When his brother shows up unexpectedly for an extended stay at just about the same time as he accidentally encounters his former student Janet (SARAH JESSICA PARKER), the circumstances cause him to stir from his deep, deep freeze, with often comical, sometimes heartbreaking, consequences for himself and everyone around him.

REVIEW: With a title like this you are setting yourself up right off the bat to require sharp, intelligent dialogue, check, a worthy cast, check, and brilliant performances from this cast, check. Well looks like we have a winner. This film surpassed my expectations and even though the story itself was nothing out of this world, the cast and their performances including incredible line delivery of an amazing script more than carried the film. It was a pleasure to watch this motion picture work of art. Actually, the simple story made it easier for the viewer to focus on the interaction of the characters. This is where the entertainment lies. I’m kind of surprised that this movie wasn’t released during “Oscar season” because even though it might or might not have received some nominations, it would have at least turned some heads.

Dennis Quaid is one of those actors that deserve more recognition. He brings quality and longevity to the table. His role as Lawrence Wetherhold expanded his horizons even more. He nailed this character that is so colorfully described within the movie. Lawrence is an English Professor at a university who is very intellectual but rough and stuffy. He is described as pretentious, self-absorbed, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Dr. Janet Hartigan, calls him a pompous windbag. I will also throw in an emotionally struggling widower. Dennis successfully brought this character to life on the big screen. This character could probably be best compared to Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As It Gets, Melvin Udall. Jack got an Oscar for that one. Speaking of Oscars, recent Best Actress nominee Ellen Page gives another jaw dropping performance as Vanessa, Lawrence’s chip off the old block daughter. She has some of the sharpest lines in the movie. Vanessa Wetherhold: [stressed] “I'm in an after-school special.” That was one of my favorites. Yes, life can seem that way sometimes, can’t it? This movie does a good job of presenting regular, everyday, non-sensationalized human drama. What is sensational, however, is how the father and daughter are toooo intellectual. Chuck Wetherhold: “These children haven't been properly parented in many years. They're practically feral. That's why I was brought in.” Thomas Haden Church plays the role of Chuck, Lawrence’s adopted brother. He is the voice of practicality over intellectuality. He tries to help bring life and balance back to the household. Thomas seems to personify this type of character. As Ellen had the sharpest lines, Thomas had the funniest. Talk about being perfectly cast and expertly performed, Thomas shines in this role. Heck, everybody was perfectly cast and shined in their respective roles. Sarah Jessica Parker blended well with these guys with a solid performance that did not distract. Ever notice how in the majority of Sarah’s work, be it TV or the big screen, she has a scene in bed. It hit me as I was watching this one. It would be odd to not see her in a bed scene. Maybe it’s because she looks pretty good in it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a major part of good performances is a great script to back it up. This is so true in this case. Kudos to Writer Mark Poirier for an excellent job with this script. Kudos to Director Noam Murro as well for an awesome directorial debut. He was able to bring out the essence of father/daughter, brother/brother, and man/woman relationships in a simple way. This movie is not for everybody because not everybody will appreciate it for what it is. If what you have read sounds interesting to you, go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Source: www.smartcine.com

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