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Smart People

May 13, 2016

Smart People (2008)
Director: Noam Murro
Actors: Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker

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Synopsis: Conceited lecturer and widower, Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid), has his conscience pricked over a number of months when two people enter the orbit of his life: his slacker adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), and new girlfriend, Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker).

Review: Very much a poor man’s Wonder BoysSmart People is pretty much a complete non-entity due to its utter prototypicality and extremely transparent attempts to force its folksy, screwball tone.

Everything about the scenario feels overfamiliar (which in itself needn’t be a criticism), but the film’s genuine conceit at what it presents as being witty and original is what grates: from the clichéd portrayal of Dennis Quaid’s shambolic professor (replete with ‘method’ potbelly, ‘hilarious’ limp and messy private life), to slapstick comedy (Quaid’s professor parks his car at weird angles and has a bizarre early accident in a parking lot), plus there’s the box-ticking biographical fact (Quaid’s professor is a recently bereaved widower – designed to lend a bit of easy pathos to proceedings.)

To add to the hackneyed status, there are the predictably-cast support players (Thomas Haden Church essaying a version of his Sideways slacker, Ellen Page in preternaturally articulate Juno-mode, and Sarah Jessica Parker as romantic support), plus there’s quite simply the most ubiquitous and demonstrative folk/easy-listening soundtrack I’ve heard in a film for a long time. For a film about ‘Smart People’, it’s not an especially ‘smart’ exposition of original filmmaking or storytelling. (May 2016)

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