Smart People review

From The Squid And The Whale to Wonder Boys and good-period Woody Allen (Manhattan et al), ad-man Noam Murro’s feature bow flaunts impeccable taste in influences. Shame it doesn’t channel them into a tighter, spikier showcase for its eye-snagging ensemble. Dennis Quaid plays gamely against his usual type as a beardy, grinchy English-lit professor, but for all his woes (unpublishable, widowed, dating a blank Sarah Jessica Parker), the character’s still a watery echo of Squid’s Jeff Daniels. Meanwhile, the really cool kids are pigeonholed in restricted roles: Ellen Page as Quaid’s poison-tongued daughter and Thomas Haden Church as his loveable screw-up of an adoptive brother. The diminishing returns of the latter’s comic bum-baring epitomise the cracks in a film that darkly targets family dysfunction and airless academia but barely manages to bruise either.

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