Saturday, 26 September 2020
Smart People
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 16 April 2008 13:35


ThumbnailSmart People has more in common with the film Juno than its young star, Nova Scotia native Ellen Page. It also boasts a witty script, a sense of humor that’s a little on the dark side, and a stellar ensemble cast. These smart people may have intellectual intelligence, but are severely lacking in the emotional variety.

At first glance it may seem that Page is being typecast by playing Vanessa, a young girl much like Juno whose intelligence and wry attitude have set her apart. Both girls are possessed of a dry wit and razor-sharp tongue. I’ve been hopeful that our own Miss Page isn’t a one-trick pony, so I looked a little deeper and realized that the characters are very different on the inside. Where Juno was rambunctious, filled with curiosity and hope for the future, Vanessa is lonely, complacent and desperately seeking attention from her emotionally absent father (Dennis Quaid).

Quaid plays Lawrence Wetherhold, a cantankerous professor who acts like a younger version of Ebenezer Scrooge. It seems that after the death of his wife he went from being a passionate educator and father to barely remembering the names of his students, or his kids for that matter. His son is resentful of him and his daughter is emulating his bad examples. He’s blunt, pompous and self-absorbed. Life just isn’t going well and, if there is any truth to bad karma attracting more bad karma, he would be a prime example.

When his adopted brother Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) shows up looking for a bit of charity and a place to stay, the last thing Lawrence wants to do is baby-sit his troublemaking sibling. But it turns out that irresponsible Chuck might be exactly what this family needs.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays the romantic interest, Dr. Hartigan, and she’s charming as usual. Once one of Wetherhold’s students, Hartigan still harbors a schoolgirl crush on him ten years later. The relationship is more off-again than on-again and I found that one of the films biggest flaws is the lack of chemistry between these two. Quaid’s character really isn’t very likeable, and any charm he may have possessed seems to have died right along with his wife. I had a hard time understanding why she would put up with him! Thumbnail

Smart People is one of those slice-of-life drama’s that doesn’t really have much plot or story to speak of. Instead we are thrown into the lives of these people mid-stream and forced to figure out their history for ourselves - to fill in the blanks so to speak. The film is extremely well acted so it’s easy to get involved in the characters and get caught up in the drama that unfolds. Dennis Quaid is a great actor and this film gives him a chance to play a character totally unlike anyone he has portrayed before.
Although I enjoyed the entire film, my favorite moments are the scenes between Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church. The two characters couldn’t be more opposite and Chuck isn’t necessarily a good influence on his impressionable niece but he gives her the attention she desperately needs and helps her stop being afraid to make a few bad decisions. This unlikely duo of wayward uncle and uptight niece had great chemistry and these two indie actors seem like a natural pair. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that in a romantic way – but they definitely seem like kindred spirits on screen and I’d love to see them work together again in the future.
I really enjoyed watching Smart People, a smart comedy about how book-smart doesn’t necessarily equate with being relationship-smart. Having a big brain might mean you need a bigger heart. I give it 8 out of 10.