Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) might be imperiously brilliant, monumentally self-possessed and an intellectual giant – but when it comes to solving the conundrums of love and family, he’s as downright flummoxed as the next guy. His teenaged daughter (Ellen Page) is an acid-tongued overachiever who follows all too closely in dad’s misery-loving footsteps, and his adopted, preposterously ne’er-do-well brother (Thomas Haden Church) has perfected the art of freeloading. A widower who can’t seem to find passion in anything anymore, not even the Victorian Literature in which he’s an expert, it seems Lawrence is sleepwalking through a very stunted middle age. When his brother shows up unexpectedly for an extended stay at just about the same time as he accidentally encounters his former student Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), the circumstances cause him to stir from his deep, deep freeze, with often comical, sometimes heartbreaking, consequences for himself and everyone around him.
Press plotline by Miramax:
Smart People is the darkly comic story of Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid), a widowed, acerbic, and self-absorbed literature professor who has alienated his son and turned his daughter into an overachieving, friendless teen. He falls for Janet (Sarah Jessica Parker), one of his former students; at the same time, his ne’er-do-well brother (played by Thomas Haden Church) unexpectedly shows up at his door, low on cash and needing a place to stay. Suddenly, Lawrence's well-thought-out, though not well-managed, life comes crashing down on him. All the intelligence in the world can’t unstick his life.
A seasoned commercial director, Noam Murro is no stranger behind a camera, but Smart People surely signals the beginning of an accomplished new career in feature filmmaking. The script by Mark Jude Poirier is razor sharp, and the obvious rapport among the ensemble cast members makes for a healthy dose of well-conceived humor. Mixing comedy genres, including just a hint of modern slapstick, Murro proves he has an assured grasp on what any good adult comedy needs—an expert balance of pace and pathos. Smart People traces the amusing series of events that trigger, in one man, the need to change and reconnect with his family before he can take the first step forward.
- After seeing her in the indie film Hary Candy, director Noam Murro liked Ellen for the role of overachieving Vanessa
(Source: Famous Magazine - March 2008)
- Ellen and Noam first met at a Burger King at the Newark Airport in New York City (Source: Famous Magazine - March 2008)
- “There’s so much passive-aggressive bitterness and child’s play in their interaction with each other. They have such a lapse in communication, and yet they all really want the same thing. She’s in the middle of this whole role reversal with her father, where she’s maintaining the household and doing the cooking, and all she does is clean and study and practice for her SAT’s. There’s no sense of normalcy or being a regular teenager in her life, which is what makes her such an arrogant and angry person. I got where she’s coming from completely. It’s kind of heartbreaking, but I also believe she’ll get through it.[...]Thomas is hilarious, extremely smart and has fantastic instincts and he was always trying new things.” (Ellen Page on her character Vanessa and working with Thomas Haden Church; Source: official production notes)
- “To work with someone like Ellen, right off the bat, in a second, you know you’re working with someone who is bigger than anything.” (director Noam Murro on working with Ellen Page; Source: www.thetartan.org)
- “She was fantastic. She did this movie before ‘Juno’ and she’s like Marlon Brando. She has the ability to do anything and make it compelling.” (Dennis Quaid on working with Ellen Page; Source: www.blackfilm.com)
- "I saw her small figure and frame walking towards me and I just knew in that instant that she was the genius I was looking for."
(Director Noam Murro on the first meeting with Ellen at a Burger King at the Newark Airport; Source: Famous Magazine)