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Smart People

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Noam Murro
Produced by Michael London
Written by Mark Poirier
Starring Dennis Quaid
Sarah Jessica Parker
Thomas Haden Church
Ellen Page
Ashton Holmes
Music by Nuno Bettencourt
Editing by Yana Gorskaya
Studio Grosvenor Park
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s) January 20, 2008 (Sundance)
April 11, 2008
Running time 95 min.
Country United States
Language English
Spanish
Gross revenue $11,839,695

Smart People is a 2008 American comedy-drama film starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church. The film was directed by Noam Murro and written by Mark Poirier. It was Produced by Michael London and Executive Produced by Omar Amanat. It was filmed on location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, including several scenes at Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh International Airport. The film premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival,[1] where North American distribution rights were acquired by Miramax Films. The film was released widely on April 11, 2008.

Contents

Plot

Carnegie Mellon English Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Quaid) is a middle-aged widower. He is bitter and arrogant at work, uninterested in his students, and alienated from his two children. His adopted ne'er-do-well brother, Chuck (Church), arrives to borrow money and stays for a while as he tries to unwind Lawrence's lonely, overachieving teenage daughter, Vanessa (Page).

Meanwhile, Lawrence suffers a trauma-induced seizure after falling from the top of a fence in an attempt to retrieve his briefcase from inside his impounded car. In the emergency room, he is treated by Dr. Janet Hartigan (Parker), a former student he does not remember. Janet tells Lawrence that because of his seizure, he is not allowed to drive for six months. When he returns home from the hospital, Chuck is still there, and he offers to drive for him in return for letting him move in.

Lawrence goes to the hospital for a follow-up, where another doctor tells him Janet had been his student. He meets Janet again outside the hospital as he is leaving and, since Chuck has failed to show up, she offers to take him home. When they arrive, he asks Janet to join him for a "face-to-face conversation." She agrees, fulfilling her old student crush on the professor. Vanessa is not pleased, confronting Janet about Lawrence's fragility. At dinner, Lawrence monopolizes the conversation and Janet walks out. Lawrence fakes a visit to the emergency room to see Janet again and the two reconcile for a second date. They get back to Janet's place where they have sex, but while spending the night, Janet is turned off by Lawrence's neediness and worries that he is, in fact, still too distraught by his wife's death. To get rid of him, she feigns being called in by the hospital and does not return any of his subsequent calls. On another night, in the midst of a contentious family Christmas dinner at the Wetherholds', Janet arrives unannounced with a cake.

After Chuck gets Vanessa drunk to celebrate her early acceptance into Stanford University, she makes a pass at him, which he rejects. He then moves in part-time with Lawrence's son, James (Ashton Holmes), in his college dormitory.

James' girlfriend, Missy (Camille Mana), who is one of his father's students, tells Lawrence that James has had a poem accepted by The New Yorker. In contrast, Lawrence's latest academic tome has been universally rejected. After Vanessa suggests a new title, You Can't Read!, the book is sold to Penguin Group, a large non-academic publisher in New York. To Lawrence's dismay, however, the book is largely re-worked and edited by the publisher and only vaguely resembles his original work. Janet accompanies Lawrence on a trip to New York to meet with the publisher, where she learns she is pregnant with his child. Preoccupied by his book's publishing and an on-going campaign to become chairman of the English Department, Janet is again upset by Lawrence's self-absorption and breaks up with him without telling him the news.

Back in Pittsburgh, Lawrence is confronted by both James and Chuck, who both point to his apparent disinterest in his children's lives. Encouraged by Chuck, Lawrence goes to the hospital to reconcile with Janet, who reveals her pregnancy. He has meanwhile dropped his bid to become department head and has become a more involved parent and professor.

During the end credits, Lawrence and Janet cradle twin babies: one boy and one girl.

Cast

Dennis Quaid on the set of Smart People at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Production

The film was originally set at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but filming an independent film in that city was deemed too difficult.[2]

Filming at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh occurred in November and December 2006.[3][4] The house used as that of the Wetherholds is in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Friendship.[5] The shooting schedule was compressed by Hollywood standards, at 29 days.[6] According to the director, Noam Murro, in the audio commentary of the DVD, filming was actually completed before that of Juno.

The photographs of the cast holding twin babies in the credits appear to be a nod to actor Dennis Quaid's twins born in November 2007, and his subsequent awareness campaign over medical drug dosage errors.[7][8]

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews. As of March 10, 2009, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 49% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 134 reviews.[9] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 57 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.[10] The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times all gave the film more positive reviews.[11][12][13] However, the movie is included in the videogum.com Hunt For the Worst Movie of All Time, which gives out predictably bad reviews.[14]

Box office performance

In its opening weekend, the film grossed an estimated $4.2 million in 1,106 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #7 at the box office. The first week gross was estimated at $5.7 million.[15] As of July 29, 2008, the movie has received $9,511,289 in the United States box office while receiving $1,069,335 overseas making a worldwide gross of $11,800,736 .

Soundtrack

The soundtrack from Smart People was released on April 8, 2008 and contained music by Nuno Bettencourt.

  1. "This Is Your Life" by Nuno Bettencourt
  2. "Q.P.D." by Nuno Bettencourt
  3. "Stitch" by Baby Animals
  4. "Early Checkout" by Nuno Bettencourt
  5. "Need I Say More" by Cherone
  6. "Rush You" by Baby Animals
  7. "Lotus" by Nuno Bettencourt
  8. "Flow" by Nuno Bettencourt
  9. "You Still Need Me" by Baby Animals
  10. "School Girl Crush" by Nuno Bettencourt
  11. "If Only" by Nuno Bettencourt
  12. "Hamburger In Bed" by Nuno Bettencourt
  13. "Pursuit of Happiness" by Nuno Bettencourt

References

  1. ^ Sundance (2007-11-28). "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in Competition" (PDF). Press release. http://www.sundance.org/festival/press_industry/releases/pdf/2008_SFF_Announces_Films_In_Competition.pdf. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  2. ^ Clemmons, Rachael (2008-03-31). "'Smart People': On screen and on campus". The Tartan. http://www.thetartan.org/2008/3/31/pillbox/smart_people. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  3. ^ "'Smart People' to film this week". The Tartan. 2006-11-06. http://www.thetartan.org/2006/11/6/news/film_schedule. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  4. ^ Peters, Andrew; Laura Thorén (2006-11-13). "'Smart People' on campus". The Tartan. http://www.thetartan.org/2006/11/13/news/smart_people. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  5. ^ Vancheri, Barbara (2008-04-11). "A guide to Pittsburgh sites in 'Smart People'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08102/872312-42.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  6. ^ Douglas, Edward (2008-04-04). "CS Talks to Smart People". Coming Soon. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=43519. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  7. ^ "Dennis Quaid's twin babies involved in LA hospital drug overdose". San Francisco Chronicle (Associated Press). 2007-11-21. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/11/21/entertainment/e055442S23.DTL. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  8. ^ Kroft, Steve (2008-03-16). "Dennis Quaid Recounts Twins' Drug Ordeal". 60 Minutes (CBS News). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/13/60minutes/main3936412.shtml. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  9. ^ "Smart People Movie Reviews, Pictures — Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1192938-smart_people/. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  10. ^ "Smart People (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/smartpeople. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  11. ^ "'Smart People' Gives Brainy Tale A Dose of Heart". Wall St Journal. 2008-04-11. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120788247820207273.html. 
  12. ^ "‘Smart People’ makes for yet another smart family comedy". Los Angeles Times. 2008-04-11. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/11/entertainment/et-smartpeople11. 
  13. ^ "A Disagreeable Academic, and a Tonic Named Sarah Jessica Parker". New York Times. 2008-04-11. http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/movies/11smar.html. 
  14. ^ "The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: Smart People" December 1, 2008. www.videogum.com.
  15. ^ "Smart People (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=smartpeople.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 

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