A hate crime on the campus of a New England college puts the school's dean in a position where she has to examine her own feelings about race and prejudice, while maintaining her administration's politically correct policies.
Sarah Jessica Parker,
A 90-year-old woman, rapidly losing her memory and knowing that sooner or later her life will be over, returns to the Manitoba farmhouse she grew up in to try and make peace with her dysfunctional family.
A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his healing touch.
Gwyn Marcus has always wanted a marriage like her parents. She has just accepted the proposal of her boyfriend Matt, but she has misgivings about their future together. Her fear of ... See full summary »
Sarah Jessica Parker,
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
When Lawrence is in the hospital, the bed rails move from being up to down when he is talking with Janet. See more »
Vanessa here is the perfect little housewife. I mean daughter.
Yes, if by perfect you mean not retarded, slash suffering from insurmountable credit card debt, then yes, I'm indeed perfect.
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"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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