Smart People

Posted April 10, 2008 in Film

After much handwringing over the Hiltonization of our culture, recent flicks like The Savages and now Smart People show Hollywood making a determined veer towards the intelligentsia only to remind us that idiots are more entertaining. There’s a bell curve to brilliance; at a certain point, a high IQ tips over into Aspergers or assholism. Noam Murro’s dull dramedy stars plenty of the latter. Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is a newly tenured English professor, less recent widower, and thoroughly pedantic bastard. His kids, James (Ashton Holmes) and Vanessa (Ellen Page), aren’t much better: he’s secretive, she’s a Republican. Into this Mensa mix comes Sarah Jessica Parker as a doctor named Janet who’s only just forgiven Lawrence for once giving her a C+ when he knocks her up and she freezes him out. Mark Poirier’s script hinges on three whopping implausibilities: 1) That Janet wants Lawrence; 2) That Vanessa wants her cheeseball slacker uncle Chuck (Thomas Haden Church); and 3) That we give a damn about any of them. More false than any of Ms. Hilton’s “accidental” panty-flashings, the meandering flick simplifies love to a montage and mourning to Quaid’s inability to ride shotgun. When he finally straps in (right before his big love speech that kicks off with “I know I’m a miserable asshole . . . ”) we’re supposed to cheer, but never understood his hangup in the first place. However, the film’s most dangerous move besides insulting our intelligence is dashing our goodwill for Page, whose brainaic shtick has soured into a scene where she drunkenly pesters a posse of bar chicks about what it’s like to be stupid. (Amy Nicholson)



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