These ‘Smart People’ are Self-Centered Snobs

Sharese Mirzakhanyan

The movie “Smart People” implies that people who are smart do not know how to be happy, are completely selfish, and essentially think that they are better than everyone else.

Everyone assumes that smart people are happy and successful, but this movie contradicts that idea. Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn. The movie is about a dysfunctional family that struggles to find some kind of happiness in life.

Directed by Noam Murro and written by Mark Poirier (“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship,” to be released in June), the film depicts the loneliness of a college professor and his family. This is Murro’s first high-profile feature.

It’s not a roll-in-the-aisles-laughing film, but it offers a few laughs throughout.

Although it may not be the great comedy that the trailers make it out to be, “Smart People” is well structured and is made watchable by decent acting and some high moments.

Dennis Quaid (“Vantage Point,” 2008) plays Lawrence Wetherhold, a college professor and widower who has not been out with a woman since his wife died. He is disliked by all his students and colleagues and shows disdain for everything life throws at him – good or bad. He cannot remember the names of his students, does not like to be bothered by them during office hours, and is harsh and blunt with everyone he meets. He does not even take the time of day to get to know his stepbrother Chuck, played by Thomas Haden Church (“Spiderman 3,” 2008).

Wetherhold lives with his over- achieving daughter Vanessa, played by Ellen Paige (“Juno,” 2007) and son James (Ashton Holmes- “What We Do Is Secret,” 2007). Vanessa is eager to get her father’s approval and acceptance and seems to follow in his footsteps – full of distress and loneliness.

Vanessa excels in everything she does and does not take one moment to enjoy life like other teenagers, but to her luck, her Uncle Chuck comes to her rescue.

Just as Chuck comes to Vanessa’s emotional rescue, Dr. Janet Hartigan played by Sarah Jessica Parker (“Spinning into Butter,’ 2007) does the same for Lawrence. She points out that he is self-absorbed and does not want to try to understand others. He suffers a concussion after falling off a fence and is reconnected with Janet, one of his former students. He opens his heart and takes small steps to become a better person with the help of Janet.

“Smart People” is a predictable movie. The audience knows what to expect from scene to scene. The lonely man will find a woman and will overcome all the obstacles. The woman will show that no matter how smart he may be, he still has a great deal to learn about life and even love.

Church makes the movie worthwhile. His character is different than the others.

Although at first glance, his character is portrayed as a lazy bum who mooches off his stepbrother, but throughout the movie we realize he is so much more significant.

Although he may not have an extremely high IQ, he is very knowledgeable about life and its important aspects.

Church and Paige give the best performances.
Poirier’s first screenplay, this could have used a little more work; the conversations between the characters do not seem very meaningful. All in all, “Smart People” was not a bad movie, but it could have been much better.

Runtime: 95 minutes
Rating: PG 13
2 stars out of 4