Synopsis: Lawrence Wetherhold (Quaid) is a grumpy, frumpy, widowed English professor at Carnegie Mellon. He's the type of guy who takes up two parking spaces and moves his clock ahead so his office hours will end earlier. In other words, a pompous jerk (who wears corduroy blazers, carries a leather satchel/briefcase, and drives a hatchback - just so we know he's a college professor). When we meet him he's falling apart at the seams - his book manuscript keeps getting rejected and his good-for-nothing brother, Chuck (Haden Church), is moving in to laze around and be the "cool" uncle to Wetherhold's two children. James (Holmes) is a snarky college student who writes poetry, and
+ Thomas Haden Church, who knows how to add just the right amount of wit, heart, and crassness to his character. A little similar to his Jack in Sideways, but a great fit nonetheless.
+ Ellen Page, though the timing is unfortunate right after Juno. In my opinion, her performance here was much better, and she appeared more comfortable in a more nuanced character. An aside: how many argyle sweater-vests, thick turtlenecks, and collared silk blouses does the average high school student own?
- Ashton Holmes, who looked like he was as disgusted with the movie as he was with his dad.
- The bland and ever-present acoustic guitar soundtrack. It just added to the pretension.
- The predictable story arc and occasionally tedious dialogue. Smart People felt like a combo platter of The Savages, Juno, and Margot at the Wedding.
Writing - 6
Acting - 10
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 7
Music - 4
Significance - 3
Total: 37/50= 74% = C
Last Word: Because "smart" people like nothing more than to demean other "smart" people, we have Smart People, giving more "smart" people (film critics) the opportunity to criticize the "smart" people who made it in the first place. I'm none of the above, but indulge me: despite great performances by Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church, this disappointing film suffers from poor writing across many flat scenes and absolutely no chemistry between Quaid and Parker. There's virtually zero momentum to the story, and to be frank, I really didn't care what happened to any of the characters, who while not altogether unlikable, are hardly relatable. To top it off, I missed any important symbolism or rich meaning hiding in the glossy, sarcastic dialogue. And how was everyone so "smart" anyway - because they're familiar with Victorian literature? Could have used a bit more evidence, though I really don't know if I would have been able to tolerate it. There's nothing wrong with making a movie about neurotic, narcissistic academics (in fact Woody Allen has made a career of it), and the intellectual crowd might have a ball with Smart People. The rest of us, however, are left rolling our eyes and thinking about it would have been a lot smarter to spend our time elsewhere.