Reviewed by

Bud Carlson

I can’t honestly say that I am a big fan of Jamie Babbit (director of “The Quiet”), since her fan club has yet to accept my application (what’s up with that?). But I do like and respect her work. I mean, with the cult-hit “But I’m a Cheerleader” and the TV-show “Popular” on her resume, is there anyone with a better track record of putting together brutally honest and campily-hysterical portraits of dysfunctional suburban life and of high school popularity?  (By the way, Babbit’s resume also includes TV’s Nip/Tuck and Gilmore Girls). So I saw “The Quiet” expecting more of the same. 

This film delivers on those expectations, though with an absence of campy humor, and an emphasis on straight and serious dysfunction.  Dot (played by Camilla Belle) is a deaf mute sent to live with her godmother Olivia Deer (Edie Falco) after her father dies. She is aloof and troubled, which is explained in the narration as being the result of her self-identity disappearing whenever she is in a room with more than one person. In addition to her handicaps, she must also deal with a wicked cheerleader stepsister Nina (the comely Elisha Cuthbert), and a stepfather Paul (Martin Donovan) who has a disturbed impression of what a perfect family represents. Not to mention, a steady stream of people who talk about her as if she were not even in the room.

So it seems there isn’t a single decent person anywhere to be found in suburbia!  Now there’s a headline!  All the kids, including and especially Nina and her friends at school, are just downright nasty to Dot. Well, except Conner (Shawn Ashmore), who is really only interested in getting into her pants. Nina’s best friend, the parent-friendly Michele (Katy Mixon), actually has the mouth of a trucker and the soul of a trollop. The school guidance counselor feigns interest in Dot, but is really only out to impress (and possibly woo) Paul, her stepdad. There isn’t a likeable character in the whole town. My, my, my, about the only decent person in this movie is the lunch lady, and she no doubt commutes in from somewhere else.

Outwardly, the Deer family seems idyllic: wealthy, successful, and popular. But once the surface is scratched, we learn that any semblance of normalcy is purely a facade.  Paul, well, I’ll just come out and say it, is an incestuous bastard! And Olivia, a successful and upscale interior decorator by day, is a pill-addicted enabler, who is usually passed out each day before the sun sets.  

So “The Quiet” becomes a movie about how Dot and Nina can live their lives, even as they must overcome so many hurdles. As their relationship grows and the two begin to relate to each other, they are able to support and draw strength from one another, and eventually take a stand against those two take advantage of them.

As I mentioned above, I like Jamie Babbit’s work a good deal. But this movie was not quite what I was expecting, and caught me a little unprepared.  I mean, in her other works, people are self-centered and are mean to each other all the time, but it is shown satirically and with a sense of humor. There were elements of satire and sarcasm present (the behavior of school guidance counselor for example), but this movie sure doesn’t end up being funny at all. With “The Quiet”, these characters are genuinely evil. And the incest subject matter was grossly unpleasant, but it was a necessary part to helping us understand Nina’s character. Fine, I get that. But having us actually listen in as father seduces daughter actually made my skin crawl.  Is this movie supposed to be a Babbit-esque satire? Was it supposed to be like an “after-school special” tale of morality? Was this movie supposed to be a horror movie, a story of torture and abuse?  Because while Babbit pulled the story together at the end (wherein each character got what they probably deserved), I walked away from the movie wondering exactly what I had just seen.

Real Time Web Analytics