Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring:||Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes, David Denman, Camille Mana|
|Producer:||Omar Amanat, Steffen Aumueller, Bill Block, Claus Clausen, Michael Costigan, Marina Grasic, Bridget Johnson, Michael London, Kenneth Orkin, Bruna Papandrea, Jennifer Roth, Edward Rugoff, Glenn M. Stewart, John Woldenberg|
“Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn.”
Dysfunction is the name of the game for the Wetherhold family in the new movie “Smart People.” Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is a cranky, depressed widower/literature professor who suffers a “trauma induced seizure” while trying to scale a fence, after swiping his briefcase from a car in the impound lot. He is admitted to a hospital, where a former patient of his, Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), is in charge of his care. She informs him that he will not be allowed to drive for six months, because of the seizure.
His deadbeat brother Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) comes to the rescue; he needs money and a place to stay, and therefore would make the perfect driver for Lawrence, because Lawrence's daughter Vanessa (Ellen Page) is far too busy with her high school responsibilities to wait on her father, hand and foot. Lawrence's son James (Ashton Holmes) lives on campus at the school where his dad teaches, but prefers dorm life to the depressing environment at home. The arrival of Chuck, and the blossoming romance with Janet, force Lawrence to evaluate himself, the choices he has made along the way, and see where his attitude has affected the lives of his children.
For an R-rated film, I was fairly surprised by how relatively tame the content was. There are a handful of F-words (maybe 6) and a few other colorful words. We also see Chuck's bare backside on two brief occasions (played entirely for comic affect). Lawrence and Vanessa sleep together after their second “first date,” but nothing is seen but them talking clothed in bed afterwards. Chuck lights a joint and talks Vanessa into trying it, and then takes her to a bar to “loosen” her up. And there is a brief scene where James and his girlfriend are seen making out in their underwear. But, when you stop and consider the content in many PG-13 rated films, let alone R-rated ones, it is almost refreshing to sit through a film like this where we come out relatively unscathed.
The performances are all right on the mark. Thomas Haden Church stands out again for his fantastic delivery of smartly written dialogue, and like he did in “Sideways” makes a great comic sidekick. Ellen Page plays a very “Juno-esque” role, and delivers once again. The characters themselves are a bit standard for this type of dysfunction-driven comedy-drama, but the actors bring us a different take on the well-worn character types.
Sadly, as with most Hollywood films, family problems and serious character flaws are never solved by focusing on building the character's relationship with God. Joy is temporarily derived from sex, or drugs, or relationships, and not from the only One who can gives us permanent peace and joy. The film does, however, provide it's adult viewers with an opportunity to discuss these things afterwards, and for that, I can recommend this movie to cautious Christian adult viewers.
Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.