Smart People

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 35min

STARRING: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker

Special treatment: Quaid and Parker

Lawrence Wetherhold (Quaid) has unhappiness buried in his marrow. A widowed Pittsburgh English professor who can’t get published, he is emotionally distant from his kids (Ellen Page and Ashton Holmes) and his chipper, shiftless brother (Thomas Haden Church), while his job only depresses him further. Lawrence is the crumpled embodiment of defeat, in other words, and the way Quaid delivers him — all gnarly disillusionment and caustic observations — is naggingly reminiscent of a world-weary Jack Nicholson. Then he ends up in ER and a quick-witted doctor (Parker) begins to crack his shell.


Directed by first-timer Noam Murro, Mark Poirier’s acerbic screenplay sets up the cleverness factor from the word go, and the cast can easily handle the verbal curve balls. What it doesn’t do is haul everyone out of their respective grooves, which, after buying into all the introspective angst, basically leaves audience members sitting around waiting for something significant to happen. It doesn’t — not really — but even in their baby steps, these cluey souls grow on you regardless.