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Smart People

2008

R CC
3.5 out of 5 stars (98) IMDb 6.2/10

Into the life of a widowed professor comes a new love and an unexpected visit from his adopted brother.

Starring:
Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker
Runtime:
1 hour, 34 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance, Comedy
Director Noam Murro
Starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker
Supporting actors Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes, Christine Lahti, Camille Mana, David Denman, Don Wadsworth, Robert Haley, Patrick Sebes, Kevin James Doyle, Paul Huber, Iva Jean Saraceni, Richard John Walters, Scott A. Martin, Jane Mowder, Adam Kroloff, Patrick Jordan, Amanda Jane Cooper
Studio Lionsgate
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Dennis Quaid plays an English professor so pompous and self-contained that the unpleasant odor of mothballs must emanate off that tweed jacket he wears. Stuck. Stuck in a past when his wife died and he became a widower. Stuck in a career where he allows no growth for himself. Smart people.

His daughter, a pompous and bombastic smart person, is a brainiac headed to Stanford. Her uncle pretty much defines her as a robotic android. The uncle and adopted brother comes into the story early on. A n'e'r-do-well who enjoys muddling through life, he, too, is one of the "smart people." He uses his intelligence to become the an unintentional nudge for change for the daughter.

Then there's the son, now a student at the same college where his dad doggedly teaches. Dr. Wetherhold most likely uses the same notes prepared the first time he delivered the lecture. Words just billow from him like smoke and not living things to be savored with others--his students. He holds their essays in as much disdain. During the course of the story he positions himself to be named the head of the English department.

The pivotal point of the story is the doctor who treats Lawrence in the emergency room and grounds him from driving for six months (actually in retaliation for a C he assigned one of her essays written ten years earlier when she was his student and originally an English major.)

They go out to eat. After he delivers a 45-minute soliloquy about Victorian literature, she interrupts to tell him what a stuffed windbag he is and leaves.

All these people live in a grim reality of unrequited happiness, acceptance of the status quo, and inertia to change anything. Little by little, life intercedes. There's a miracle that changes everything.
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Format: DVD
Smart People is a great dramedy--a mixture of comedy and drama. It goes for the Smart Laugh, not the Big Laugh. Mark Poirier, the son of a MIT professor, wrote a Smart script, and Smart Director Noam Murro very smartly cast some of the smartest actors around: Ellen Page, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Dennis Quaid. I loved it, because I am also very Smart, but it didn't do as well at the box office or with the critics (except it was the Number One DVD at Netflix for a while) as it deserved. That Smarts.

I think the problem with this movie is that like the characters, Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) and his daughter Vanessa Wetherhold (Ellen Page), it doesn't suffer fools gladly. Thus, for a large portion of the audience, it is over their heads, and they feel like it is condescending, supercilious, and they feel patronized. As Lawrence's adopted brother, Chuck Wetherhold (Thomas Haden Church) says of Vanessa: "You're a monster!"

And that is an understatement. In another scene she says to her father, "Theresa Sternbridge practically runs a soup kitchen and she's always seen posing in photos with crack babies and dying, old, crusty ladies. And do you know why? She scored in the 45th percentile on her SAT. People like you and me don't need to compensate."

Although Chuck sees that Vanessa, and her role model father, are both monsters, in spite or because of their intelligence, he still loves them and tries to help. Did I mention that Chuck is a screw up, down on his luck, and an opportunist who sees a win/win situation for himself when his brother has a seizure and cannot drive. He will have a place to stay, and 3 squares, for driving his brother around--albeit very unreliably.
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Format: DVD
A self-absorbed college professor lost sight of the need to be sensitive of other people and their feelings when his wife died. Raising his daughter on his own has been difficult, but she's growing up just like her dad. And no, that is not a good thing. (He has a son, too, but he seems at least relatively well adjusted. So this movie is not about him.) The professor's dead-beat brother moves in with them and tries to give perspective to both the professor and his daughter.

Apparently there is a new formula in small-budget, independent comedies. What do you add to a pretentious lead character to create comedy? Thomas Hayden Church. It worked in Sideways, and it worked again here. He is the down-on-his-luck brother who weasles his way in to free room and board. While staying with his brother and niece he shakes them out of old habits and tries to implore them to take control and live their lives free from societal pressures to be something they do not want to be. Sounds heavy, but it wasn't that bad.

This was Ellen Page's big follow-up to Juno. I don't think this was what people were hoping for. As the professor's daughter she brought all of the attitude of Juno with none of the charm.

Dennis Quaid is our nutty professor, our single father. I like Mr. Quaid. I think that his often-exasperated mannerisms are enjoyable, almost Jack Nicholson-esque at times. I find comfort in his schtick, I guess. He was sometimes frustrating, but otherwise good yet again.

Smart People could have been called "Boring People and the Brother," but that is probably less marketable. This is an okay movie with a good cast. And the overall feel of the movie was saved by Thomas Hayden Church. I don't want to give him a reputation he cannot live up to, but the small resurgence in his career has been worthwhile for me.
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