Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Owen, you must be" - she always called me Owen - "In this world, Owen, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, until I watched Smart People I'd have recommended the former. Now I will recommend the latter. Pleasantness over smarts any day. You may quote me.
This quirky-indie-comedy-dysfunctional-family-drama (you know the type Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways et al) deals with intellectual types that very rarely play at being nice to each other or anyone else around them. Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is the head of the family, an author/professor who is best summed up by his student evaluations; He's an asshole. He lives with his Young Republican daughter and increasingly distant son. When his adopted brother, a 40 something directionless loser, comes to chaffeur him around his life starts to turn. Add into that a new romance and we have all the ingredients of a 'life lesson to be learnt'.
Thankfully its quite a good life lesson. And I'm a big fan of life lessons in movies. Stories as education have been around forever and as long as the teaching isn't along the lines of "Killing newborn babies is cool" or "Hey, have you tried drinking meths through your eyeball?" I'm happy to sit up and pay attention. In this case its not the story thats going to blow you away (well nothing in this movie is gonna 'blow you away' its not that kind of film) but good characters and a cast of reliable actors to help make them real is paramount. On the actor front, well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad.
Dennis Quaid is suitably misanthropic. He is an asshole and no amount of, yeah but his wife is dead, is gonna give him sympathy. But you may just start to like him once he realises he's a bit of a fraud. The key being he realises this himself. Thomas Haden Church is well cast as the 'idiot' brother, as is Ellen Page as the one who'll do anything to impress her father. The scenes between these two are by far the best, adding a much needed cringeworthy creepiness to the procedings. The loose fourth wheel though is Sarah Jessica Parker, her being as necessary as Anusol on a prolapsed rectum. I would give the cinematic equivalent of Red Rum a bigger kicking but I'm saving that for my The Sex and The City review. In it I'll be covering such topics as dangerously skinny women being unable to generate vaginal lubricant. Stay Tuned Kids!