Buena Vista Home Entertainment
In shops now
Here’s a movie that has everything going for it. The cast includes Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church. It’s produced by Groundswell, which has got quite the queue of cool indie movies en route (groundswellfilms.com). And it has a nice rave on the cover by Joe Morgenstern, one of my favourite film writers – and he’s usually spot-on. Well, despite its charming faces and acerbic one-liners, “Smart People” just doesn’t make it out of the gate. And it’s primarily because its characters are so morose that if you are presently taking downers it may just be the last film you ever see. Set against the backdrop of CMU and the bleak Pittsburgh weather, Quaid plays a ornery, widowed smarty-pants of a professor who doesn’t have room for anyone else in his life because he’s too busy being Debbie Downer over his lack of publishing offers. His daughter played by Page is a chip off the old block, and then there’s Church as his ne’er do well adopted brother who has dug his own holes for himself. Ms. Parker runs the ER where Papa Bear is treated for some head trauma after he falls off a chain-link fence. They’re all just really sad, which can make for great comedy, but these folks are so far gone that it’s hard to even laugh. Then, miraculously, in the last 10 minutes, all is saved and the sun shines again. Certain characters don’t get a fair shake when exploring their plots and others just wrap it up way too quickly. So when it’s all said and done, you don’t want to slit your wrists anymore, but you also are a little peeved at not having had the chance to see all sides of these troubled and really interesting characters.