2006Director: Jamie Babbit
Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Edie Falco, Martin Donovan, Camilla Belle
illow talk had never been so kinky and disturbing, and without warning, The Quiet, an ambivalently joyless dirge of a film, shakes us alert. If we weren’t paying attention before, maybe we will now. The post-coital conversation between Paul (Martin Donovan) and Nina (Elisha Cuthbert) is a disturbing one, not least because they’re father and daughter, but even more so because Dot (Camilla Belle), an orphaned teenager who’s just recently lost her father and come to live with family friends, overhears them. Incidentally, Dot is a deaf mute.
Still, the voiceover narration that opens The Quiet, that of the deaf mute Dot, is so ethereal and seemingly consequential as to portend a chilly drama. As she walks through the halls of her new high school and contemplates invisibility, or some type of self-abnegation, a sense of emptiness pervades. Even in the cafeteria, where vapid chatter bleeds its way to her lonely table, Dot’s hunched posture and shooting, skeptical glances reveal nothing. Exactly what to make of her appears to be the narrative puzzle here.
Her new stepsister Nina, however, is easy enough to read. A blond cheerleader with a wildly inverse proportion of attitude to tact, Nina’s bullying of Dot is relentless and relentlessly cartoonish. Elisha Cuthbert has shown more subtlety in her role as Kim Bauer on TV’s 24, whereas Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft, the film’s screenwriters, may still be getting a handle on the economy of dialogue and character sketching. The direction was no help either.
Jamie Babbit, of But I’m a Cheerleader fame, and most certainly a better television director (Nip/Tuck, Gilmore Girls, Alias), seems to have put all the pieces in the wrong places. When Nina confesses to wanting to kill her father, and sets a plan to do so that night, some interminably confounding foot-dragging follows. A sex scene is inserted independent of the plot, which generally isn’t a bad thing, but is deployed so bizarrely as to raise questions. More troubling, the third act ends three different times, one of which is plausible, while the other two are baffling and conveniently benign.
Edie Falco, regrettably, shows up as the drug addled matriarch of the family in her second bad movie of the year (Freedomland). Doubtless, she’ll regret appearing nude, and embarrassingly so, in a film of this caliber. The Quiet is a sharply appealing concept lacking a satisfactory execution. A deaf mute girl stumbles upon the incestuous relations of her adopted family while the self-medicated mother walls herself off from the depravity of it all. Poor plotting, negligible motivations, self-important narration, and a few non-characters conspire to make The Quiet a worse movie than it probably should’ve been.
The Quiet is now playing in limited release.
By: Ron Mashate
Published on: 2006-09-13