Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Sarah Jessica Parker
Vanessa: What’s it like to be stupid?
Other girl: What’s it like sitting by yourself at lunch every day?
Vanessa: …It sucks…
Lawrence (Quaid) is a professor who has had to raise two kids alone after his wife passed away. He is not at all good at interacting with other people due to his pompous, superior attitude, which he has passed down to his daughter Vanessa (Page). When he suffers a head injury and isn’t allowed to drive himself anywhere, Lawrence’s adopted brother Chuck (Church) moves in and becomes his personal driver. In the meantime, Lawrence has started to date Janet (Parker), which does not please Vanessa.
A ways into this movie I was thinking it should be called Annoying People, or maybe Miserable People. There’s a lot of unhappiness on display, and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it other than the characters are jerks to each other. You could assume it’s a family broken by the loss of their wife/mother years ago, but that doesn’t really seem to be explored as the cause.
Thomas Haden Church’s character enters into the scene and seems more likable, but really he’s an irresponsible slacker who forgets appointments to pick up his brother and gives his 17 year old niece pot and alcohol. Yay.
Also, this movie feels like somebody read the Indie Movie Handbook and followed it step by step. The characters, the situations, the nearly constant acoustic guitar music punctuating almost every scene. It all seems a little forced.
For a movie called Smart People, they don’t seem to treat the audience like they’re very smart. There’s a lot of hand-holding going on. Making sure we have the back story spelled out, making sure we get why Vanessa is jealous of Janet, etc. Sometimes it’s good to have a little mystery in your characters actions.
That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots. The actors all do a good job with their characters, and there are some genuinely funny moments. It’s not a hard movie to suffer through, it’s just a little predictable, and with the characters not being very likable, I found myself not being too interested in the outcome.
10 – 3 for characters I didn’t care much about – .5 for being predictable – .4 for dull soundtrack = 6.1