Two hours of my life I will never get back. Depression, bleakness, hopelessness, self-absorption, whining, self-pity and condescension do not make a person "smart", as the writer of this diabolically uninteresting movie seems to think. I kept thinking this movie would get better. To be fair, it did - WHEN IT ENDED. I am left with the feeling that I would like to find a noose in order to escape the swirling vortex of negativity that exemplify these characters and this movie. Terrible, awful movie.
Why, oh why, when a simply awful movie is written is it declared to be "witty and smart" just because it is an independent? Independent movies can - and obviously are, in this case - just as terrible as any of the dreck being poured out by the big studios. "Acquired taste" does not begin to describe it - I would gnaw my own foot off in order to get out of another screening of this "film".
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Fell in love right away. Difficult follow up to 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf'. Read the play at University of Toronto. I viewed the film. Wonder Boys was another great film. This film is witty. Got my attention. I watch this film and do not get bored of it.
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This movie is funny yet it dives deep into the characters internal emotional struggles. Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Page:outstanding performances. I recommend this movie for a change from the usual genre. M.Marr.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Smart people aren't alwaysSept. 28 2008
Judy K. Polhemus
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
"Smart People" is about smart people, but not as a positive attribute. To take pride in being smart and not extending beyond oneself is the height of selfishness. Some thinkers would say this is good, but the characters in this story don't even know they are lost in a maze of the thick muck of conceit and the supercilious. However, when two smart people collide and a tiny spark flickers, anything can happen.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
But, how do you know what tone I was trying to set?Feb. 21 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
Though he is not the greatest driver, he really has a lot of intelligence about people. For instance, at a Christmas Dinner, where Vanessa's brother James Wetherhold (Ashton Holmes) complains about the rubbery ham (Vanessa used a recipe downloaded from the Internet written in the archaic French of Louis the XIV, and translated by her, maybe not as well as she thinks (a great example of her over achiever approach to cooking); when former student and now doctor Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker) drops in unexpectedly Chuck explains "These children haven't been properly parented in many years. They're practically feral. That's why I was brought in. To keep them from killing each other."
All of the characters have a story arc, where they have an epiphany, and reach a greater awareness; but the Father/Daughter dynamic between the professor and his precocious progeny is perhaps the most complicated. He takes her for granted and is even less involved with his son James, while she idolizes him and emulates his self absorbed and condescending approach to other, less worthy, people.
--------------------- Lawrence Wetherhold: I don't think you're very happy Vanessa. Vanessa Wetherhold: Well, you're not happy. And you're my role model. =============================
She tries to sabotage his relationship with Janet, but he is more than capable of sabotaging it all by himself. However, with a little help and coaching from brother Chuck, perhaps he will prevail after all.
By the way, fabulous performance by Thomas Haden Church, comparable to his character and performance in Sideways. Chuck was one of my favorite characters.
That Ellen Page really nailed her role goes without saying. Her only danger now is being forever typecast as the wise-beyond-her-years waif. What other young actress could convincingly play someone stressed out about getting a perfect SAT score?
Sarah Jessica Parker was smart and sassy, yet she was also a bit damaged, and had a lesson to learn. Great scene when Janet first meets Chuck.
Dennis Quaid wore a fat suit and had a shuffling walk, like he had something stuffed up inside him. He looked very different than previous roles, and created a quite convincing persona. He really conveyed his utter disregard for those below him on the bell curve of intelligence. He was very annoying, as his role called for that, but gradually, perhaps, he would come around. One sub plot was about him getting a book published, and as you could imagine by the dry academic title, there was little chance of that happening. But when he submitted it under a title suggested by his daughter Vanessa, YOU CAN'T READ!, it finally was accepted.
--------------- Bloomberg: I got to the third section where I noticed a certain marketable tone, the surly smarter-than-thou @$$#0[3 tone. ===================================
Their strategy was that it would be attacked on NPR and three weeks later he'd be interviewed defending it on Charlie Rose. Kind of like when you have a lemon, make lemonade.
Last but not least, Ashton Holmes as James Wetherhold and Camille Mana as Missy Chin, one of Lawrence's students, were both good in their small but pivotal roles. James had good reason to stay away from the toxic environment he called home as much as possible, but when he was there, he made a quiet impact.
This was the first big screen role for Camille Mana, but I recognized her from the UPN sitcom One on One where she played Lisa Sanchez. She is very smart, having graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in economics after only 6 semesters, and I predict great things for her.
In Smart People she keeps popping up as the thorn in her professor's side, and if he wasn't so self absorbed, perhaps he would remember her name. She and James even hook up, and you almost wish the focus had been on them a bit more. However, they function as a reminder that other people have lives just as interesting if not more so than the self absorbed professor and his equally self absorbed daughter. When James gets a poem published in The New Yorker, Lawrence is surprised to learn that he writes poetry. Perhaps he should listen to what other people have to say once in a while.
I really liked this film because I could relate to the Smart People, and how hard it is for them to be humble. Yes, I too have a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, but after years of isolation, I would suffer them more than gladly. Though I may have an extremely high IQ, there are many different kinds of intelligence, and I wish that I had a little more intelligence about people. Perhaps I can get a high score on an intelligence test, but sometimes I can be a complete idiot.
OTHER NOTABLE ROLES OF SMART PEOPLE CAST MEMBERS
Sex and the City - The Movie (Special Edition) (2008) .... Sarah Jessica Parker was Carrie Bradshaw Juno (Single-Disc Edition) (2007) .... Ellen Page was Juno MacGuff Spider-Man 3 (2007) .... Thomas Haden Church was Sandman / Flint Marko An American Crime (2007) .... Ellen Page was Sylvia Likens What We Do Is Secret (2007) .... Ashton Holmes was Rob Henley Normal Adolescent Behavior: Havoc 2 (2007) .... Ashton Holmes was Sean Hard Candy (2005) .... Ellen Page was Hayley Stark A History of Violence (2005) .... Ashton Holmes was Jack Stall Sideways (Widescreen Edition) (2004) .... Thomas Haden Church was Jack Spanglish (2004) .... Thomas Haden Church was Mike the Realtor Far From Heaven (2002) .... Dennis Quaid was Frank Whitaker Postcards from the Edge (1990) .... Dennis Quaid was Jack Faulkner Great Balls of Fire! (1989) .... Dennis Quaid was Jerry Lee Lewis Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) .... Sarah Jessica Parker was Janey Glenn Footloose (1984) .... Sarah Jessica Parker was Rusty
---------------------- Vanessa Wetherhold: You should really make your bed. It sets the tone for the day. Chuck Wetherhold: But, how do you know what tone I was trying to set? =========================================
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Intelligent People Behaving StupidlyAug. 15 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
I have to get something off my chest: `Smart People' is an acquired taste. If you like indie films that contain absorbing characters and dysfunctional families, then you're going to get into this one. For me I've gone into a lot of intelligent films in the last year and often found something missing. Not entirely different than `Margot at the Wedding,' 'Two Days in Paris,' and `Year of the Dog,' the film's deliberations have enough flair to capture my interest. While the other films were clever, I have to admit, I personally didn't love them. Don't expect `Smart People' to be the next `Little Miss Sunshine' or `The Squid and the Whale (Special Edition)' but its quirkiness can reel one in from the onset.
Dennis Quaid stars as pedantic curmudgeon Dr. Lawrence Wetherhold, a straightforward professor at Carnegie Mellon who has difficulty remembering students' names, but has no trouble mincing words about their papers. On campus his son, Jim (Ashton Holmes) shows that even in close proximity to his father, the emotional distance between them is staggering. In an odd role reversal dad only visit's the dorm when he wants something from him.
At home daughter, Vanessa (Ellen Page) is a type-A personality student; she's gung ho to get A's and is preparing for her ACT exams with a vengeance. A Republican zealot, her character is as sassy as Juno with none of the exuberant lilt. Uptight like her father, she also seldom minces words, but her delivery is deadly blunt and seldom funny. Plenty of opportunities for undercutting humor are given voice through her character.
That leaves us with the plot. When Wetherhold leaves his car illegally parked on campus, it gets towed. When he retrieves it from impounding, he discovers he's not going to get preferential treatment, so he climbs a fence with barbed wire to get his car and briefcase for free. Without succeeding he collapses on the pavement and is sent to Allegheny General. At the hospital, he is treated by Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), a former student, who informs him he's had a seizure and his headstrong appeal to leave and drive will not take effect when her required report to the DMV restricts him from driving for six months. Vanessa, who is in the thick of exams, doesn't like losing beauty sleep visiting her father in the hospital.
But Larry's long lost adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Hayden-Church), an infrequent visitor with a history of borrowing money, now offers to be his paid chauffeur. He's a lousy driver to begin with, but Wetherhold doesn't have many choices. Larry especially needs him to shuttle him to see Janet, with whom he's grown smitten, despite the fact she needs to forgive the memory of "the same pompous windbag that made me change majors from English to biology."
Mixing like oil and water, Chuck tries to get officious and sometimes vicious Vanessa to lighten up and enjoy life. Meanwhile, Dr. Janet takes some risks and tries to soften her old professor as he's set in his long-winded, unromantic ways. Mutually beneficial, Vanessa tries to get her father to become head of the English department, so he can afford to send her to Stanford. Brother Jim tries to fit in a life all his own.
Sometimes relying too much on heavy sarcasm, the humor isn't always laugh-out-loud funny, but the casting certainly isn't amiss. I like the way the movie undercuts the arrogance of people with intelligence misplaced. Maybe everything doesn't coalesce in the film just like in real life, but in many ways the movie's cohesiveness keeps it consistent.
A J.P.'s Tossup, Er...Heads: 2.5 *'s Fair. I liked it despite its weaknesses. Sometimes it's not funny and happy to be that way, but I was drawn in by the characters.
For fans of intelligent indie movies with quirky characters and smart dialogue, this is a B- version of 'The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection)' and highly recommended for you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This one falls short, but it was still ok.March 10 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Smart Film That Everyone Can EnjoyAug. 17 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This film struck me because many of us have been through tough freshmen weed-out classes. Some professors made us feel like we were a bug to be stepped on. What if you happen to meet your old professor again? Would you say hello? Remind your professor about their flaws? In this case, this film opens the door to the whole professor-student relationships. Some of his former students remind him of being cold and oblivious to them as a person. Eventually, the plot takes an interesting turn with his former student. To avoid ruining the plot, it makes for an interesting storyline that weaves loss, rejection, failure, and new beginning.
For CMU alums, you will recognize buildings like Porter and Doughetry Halls. Also, there are some scenes like the big green on Forbes Avenue where a new art sculpture now stands. You definitely see the streets of Pittsburgh how it was meant to be seen. I even recognized the Costco in Robinson Town Center when the credits were rolling. You feel like the city and campus were real characters in this film. If you are curious about the whole story, then check out the bonus features. These include conversations with the writer, director, and actors. There are also some bloopers and deleted scenes to enjoy as well.