Smart People isn’t a movie about smart people. You may think that for some reason or another, but it’s actually about miserable, depressed, completely unlikable people. However, that title is not one that would fit on a marquee.
Smart People’s strength lies in its characters, easily helped along by fine performances from Dennis Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, and Ellen Page. Quaid’s instantly hated Professor Lawrence Wetherhold is the star, depressed after his wife’s death, but it’s Church’s high on life slacker Chuck who steals the show. Quaid is unable to drive following an accident, and it’s up to Chuck to rather poorly act as his driver.
The film takes a leisurely pace all the way to its finish. Maybe “leisurely” doesn’t quite describe it. It moves at a snail’s pace, and some scenes serve little to no purpose. It’s worse when there’s no real center story, more of a series of events that happen to these characters. Jokes are mostly subtle, dry, and tossed out for the audience to pick up on during the sharp dialogue. This isn’t mainstream comedy. If you catch all the jokes and follow the constantly shifting lives of these people, this is a hilarious movie, albeit one spread thin at times.
Sarah Jessica Parker is introduced as a love interest for Quaid, bringing a small glimmer of hope to his rather nasty exterior, and while Smart People avoids many of the usual romantic comedy pitfalls/clichés, it unfortunately ends on one. Still, with its characters strongly laid out, it doesn’t hinder the tone or style of the film. At that point, you’re involved, and the naturalistic style of believable dialogue excuses the minor pitfalls.
There’s nothing staggering to discuss in terms of the disc’s video. It’s overly soft at times, though remains routinely well detailed. Colors are nicely handled, with spot-on flesh tones. Black levels are excellent, but never quite carry a heavy contrast to the point where it offers that crisp HD pop of higher end transfers. It’s serviceable enough, but far from being demo material.
Dialogue is the only notable piece to the audio. It’s well mixed to keep a consistent volume level. The indie soundtrack nicely fills the rears. The source offers nothing of value to audio enthusiasts.
A commentary from first time director Noam Murro and first time writer Mark Poirier is the lead extra. The Smartest People is your typical making of, running slightly over 17 minutes. Deleted scenes take up 10 minutes of your time, an a few minutes of outtakes round off a minimal set of extras.