Smart People is the story of a self-congratulatory family of elitist, self-proclaimed intelligentsia that lives back east. The children, who all have serious issues thanks to poor parenting, attend a prestigious school where the father is a withdrawn, washed-up professor–What? What’s that you say? You’ve heard this story before and it was done much better? Yes, Smart People is the poor man’s The Squid and the Whale. Director Noam Murro sure wishes he had the directing chops that Noah Baumbach has. But he doesn’t, and it’s clear in this, his directorial debut.
It’s unfortunate that this film doesn’t really come together. I’m a big Ellen Page fan, and even she was tied down by the restraints this film placed on her and the other cast members. These restraints include the script that comes from us from first time writer Mark Poirier, which is witty, and clever, but one hundred minutes of stinging zingers and caustic sarcasm do not a good film make.
The rest of the cast didn’t hold much promise for me, so I didn’t expect much. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Sarah Jessica Parker’s performance. She got all frumpy (well, she wasn’t all fashionista, at least) and played a toned down part that wasn’t all self-important, and I liked it. This whole mess was accompanied by one of the most annoying, acoustic, emo-bull-shit soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It’s like Murro was afraid the audience (apparently he didn’t expect smart people to see his film) wouldn’t catch on that each scene was touched with a tinge of melancholy, but also a little hope. See the tracklisting here for songs not to listen to. Ever.
The whole thing wasn’t a loss, there were some funny moments where I actually laughed out loud (but just a little). And if you’re one for happy endings, then this is for you! But for me, it wasn’t worth waiting to get there.
Rated R for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, and for some sexuality.