At first sight Smart People seems to follow the well worn, tried and tested formula for a romantic comedy. However, as the film progresses you realise it is so much more than that. It’s a story about ordinary people struggling to deal with their day-to-day lives when things take a turn in several directions that no-one could ever have anticipated.
Set Pittsburgh, the film introduces widowed English professor Professor Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid), a depressive and arrogant man who ignores his students and dysfunctional family. He lives with his genius-yet-reclusive daughter Vanessa (Juno’s Ellen Page) while son James (Ashton Holmes) goes to the same college that he works at.
Wetherhold has been a tortured soul since the death of his wife but is eventually brought ‘back to life’ by former student Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker).
The real entertainment in the family is the deadbeat adopted brother, Chuck Wetherhold. Chuck’s killer lines are finely delivered in a stellar performance by Thomas Haden Church, his personality making him a character you have to love.
This film is a treat, with sharp dialogue and uniformly fine acting. Quaid’s performance almost compares to his talents in Great Balls of Fire (1989) while it’s a shame that fans of Sarah Jessica Parker will be distracted by one of her sexier releases later this month.
Smart People was adapted for the screen by Mark Poirier and it’s no surprise that the finished product impresses in the hands of Israeli director Noam Murro. He’s definitely one to watch for the future, with several projects coming up including Human Capital.
Overall, if you fancy a rom-com with a twist, the May 16 release date should be one for your diary.
Review by Faith Orr
Smart People is on general release from Friday 16 May.