It’s been a while since we’ve had a good Dennis Quaid performance. Seems all he needed was a beard, disheveled hair, a small gut and some notes from Philip Seymour Hoffman characters. In Smart People, Quaid anchors a talented cast with his restrained, cranky performance, playing a restrained, cranky English professor who has given up on most everything and still doesn’t seem to care.
His Lawrence Wetherhold is a man trapped by his own dullness after the death of his wife. He doesn’t care about his students, he writes seemingly boring novels, and he under appreciates his kids, mostly his quick-witted, homemaker daughter played with familiar comic flare by Ellen Page.
But this is no Juno, you won’t get those liberal minded ideals that drove Page to an Oscar nomination, instead she offers an insight to a smart, cunning, young Republican genius that couldn’t stray farther from that pregnant 16 year old.
After Wetherhold suffers a seizure due to an injury, he is advised to not drive for six months. In comes his hilarious adopted brother played by the marvelous Thomas Haden Church. While Church seems to echo his Sideways character, you won’t be able to stop yourself from laughing when he gets Page stoned and drunk.
Sarah Jessica Parker plays a nurse (and former student) of Quaid’s and a May-December relationship ensues.
The road to happiness is far from easy when these neurotic characters are involved, but first time director Noam Murro executes the sharp words by Mark Poirier so refreshingly that the audience is given a nice reprieve from the cinema Spring cleaning.
This is a simple, wildly amusing film that will make you laugh, but not necessarily cry. The performances from each member of the cast is spot on, but it’s Church and Page who steal the show. Church’s career was recently revived and he has been hitting all the right notes since, and the young Page is well on her way to becoming one of the most identifiable actors of her generation. A-