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


Noam Murro


Mark Poirier (as Mark Jude Poirier)
3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dennis Quaid ... Lawrence Wetherhold
Sarah Jessica Parker ... Janet Hartigan
Thomas Haden Church ... Chuck Wetherhold
Elliot Page ... Vanessa Wetherhold (as Ellen Page)
Ashton Holmes ... James Wetherhold
Christine Lahti ... Nancy
Camille Mana ... Missy
David Denman ... William
Don Wadsworth Don Wadsworth ... Hadley
Robert Haley ... Roth
Patrick Sebes ... Curtis
Kevin James Doyle Kevin James Doyle ... Rodney
Paul Huber Paul Huber ... Ben (as Paul J. Huber)
Iva Jean Saraceni ... Volunteer
Richard John Walters ... Parking Lot Attendant


Lawrence Wetherhold is miserable and misanthropic: he's a widower, a pompous professor at Carnegie Mellon, an indifferent father to a college student and a high-school senior, and the reluctant brother of a ne'er-do-well who's come to town. A seizure and a fall send Lawrence to the emergency room where the physician, a former student of his, ends up going on a date with him. His daughter, Vanessa, lonely and friendless, who's been bonding with his brother, tries to sabotage dad and the doctor's relationship, but Lawrence is good at that without help. Is there any way these smart people can get a life? Can happiness be pursued beneath layers of irony? Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, and for some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church appear together in Divorce, HBO 2016. See more »


In the bar scene in the middle of the film, there is a song overdubbed. When you turn the subtitles on, the lyrics are displayed and prefaced by "Man:". However, a woman is singing. See more »


Vanessa Wetherhold: Everybody hates me.
Chuck Wetherhold: If you tell people they're stupid, they'll usually hate you.
See more »


Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Ellen Page/Wilco (2008) See more »


Written by Anthony J. Resta
Performed by Nuno Bettencourt and Anthony J. Resta
See more »

User Reviews

Noah Baumbach needn't fear.
4 April 2008 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

"These children haven't been properly parented in many years. They're practically feral. That's why I was brought in." Chuck Wetherhold (Thomas Haden Church)

I know smart. My college-professor colleagues are smart, with the usual trade off of occasional neuroticism. My kids are smart, with the usual emotional distance and independence that accompany eccentricity. So Noam Murro's Smart People, about a widower professor of literature, and his brainy family initially put me off with its dysfunctional crew, but as I slowly gave myself to the cynicism and inhumanity, I realized this crazy world was one I know well, and well is it depicted in its humor and pathos.

Although Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is tenured at Carnegie Mellon and on the brink of having a book accepted for publication, he is surly to everyone else, even his young students and his feckless adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), and unhappy with himself, in large part, it would seem, because of the untimely death of his talented wife that allows him to wallow unchecked in self pity. Quaid's interpretation borders on annoying, so unremittingly curmudgeonly does he play it.

Former student and head of ER at a local hospital, Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), has the potential to pull him out of his funk if his devoted, brilliant, and acerbic daughter Vanessa (Ellen Page) can't. Why Hartigan is attracted to him is never established, and why Parker would accept such a thankless, underdeveloped role is a mystery.

This anti-Little Miss Sunshine and close relative to Royal Tenenbaums beats all quirky family comedy/dramas for pure cynicism. However, that very dark tone throughout, even down to the somewhat contrived denouement, is the film's strength. The reality is that depressed, smart people don't immediately change; they slowly if at all join the brotherhood of man by accepting our faults, as simple as upgrading worthy student papers or asking personal questions of those students or a date.

Noah Baumbach needn't fear: Smart People is nowhere near as smart or glib as Squid and the Whale and Life Aquatic, but it brings a new dimension to the quirky family genre: honesty and gloom that translate into an enjoyable date with a dysfunctional family that's a lot like our arguably functional ones.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

11 April 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Smart People See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,092,465, 13 April 2008

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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