Into the life of a widowed professor comes a new love and an unexpected visit from his adopted brother.Into the life of a widowed professor comes a new love and an unexpected visit from his adopted brother.Into the life of a widowed professor comes a new love and an unexpected visit from his adopted brother.
Familiar, but well done dramedy featuring some stellar performances
An indie comedy about a quirky family of self-hating misfits. We've seen this before, am I right? Well, so what, I say. When it's done well, I don't care too much whether the concept has been done before. And Smart People is done quite well. Dennis Quaid stars as a college professor and widower who hasn't been out with a woman since his wife died an unspecified (but long) amount of time ago. He lives alone with his daughter (Ellen Page). He has a son who goes to the same college at which he teaches and an adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church) who likes to mooch off of him. After an accident, Church moves in with Quaid and Page. Quaid also meets a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker), now a doctor, who had a crush on him. They start to date. The plot isn't anything special, but the dialogue is witty and the relationships are well observed. And this is also a case of fine actors who make something merely serviceable into something special. Quaid has never been better. My feeling about his work as an actor is that he is very uneven. He can be excellent, such as in The Right Stuff, but usually he's adequate, and often, perhaps too often, he's awful. But this is definitely one of the excellent performances. Church has kind of a sitcommy role, but that's fitting for an actor who was really good in sitcoms. He's hilarious here, too. A lot of the time, I was thinking of the movie as somewhat akin to a sitcom, but a good sitcom. There have been such things, you know. Page, fresh off her star-making turn as Juno (though Smart People was filmed earlier), is an actress I've liked in a couple of movies I disliked (Juno and Hard Candy). Finally, a movie with her that I actually like! Feels good. And she's great in it. The character is similar to Juno, but not quite so despicably precious. I like how the writer and director invite the audience to dislike all four of the major characters, at least a bit. They are recognizable people, which is, unfortunately, a rarity in movies. I liked the movie, and recommend it.
- Apr 13, 2008
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