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The Quiet

The nominees for the Two-Thirds of 2006 Worst Picture award are: Date Movie, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Little Man, Material Girls and The Quiet. And the, er, winner is…The Quiet! Congrats?


The Quiet starts off unintentionally laughable--before graduating to hilarious--with Dot"s (Camilla Belle) voice-over: "All I wanted was to be invisible… When another person was in the room, I felt like half a person. When two people were there, I felt like a third of a person. When three other people…" Her spiel goes from clichés-for-dummies to just plain funny--and no, unfortunately she does not continue down the number line--but it"s soon clear that Dot, a "deaf" teenager adopted by her suburban godparents after her father died, is giving away one of the movies predictable twists from the get-go (leave now while there"s still time!). Dot"s adoptive sister, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert), treats her like crap while dealing with her own drama; her new mom, Olivia (Edie Falco), numbs herself with pills; and her new dad, Paul (Martin Donovan), has secrets too, but we won"t spoil his non-surprise. And for good measure, Dot even tries to drop a bomb on us. If the theme were spelled out, it would"ve been subtler: suburbia"s just as effed-up as urbia.


The family"s dysfunction in The Quiet is nothing compared to the cast"s. The only semblance of chemistry occurs between Belle and Cuthbert, the film"s only assets whatsoever, and even that is tenuous. All that"s outwardly clear about Belle"s Dot--quite the popular name for a teenage girl…circa WWI--is that she is troubled; thanks to Belle (When a Stranger Calls) we can at least ascertain that much. Cuthbert (24) also does her part with a performance so decent it seems out of place. Then we meet Donovan (The Sentinel) and Falco as the parents who ooze secrecy. We"ll be a tad merciful with Donovan, because this seems more aberrational than anything given his past performances, but let"s just say he looks like he"s (over)acting in a different movie, a TV movie (which might just make him the genius in this case). And for Falco, also deserving of a reprieve, the performance is also just not pretty, but luckily there"s not much of it. It"s time to acknowledge that she has the most lopsided ratio of movie-role choice (abysmal) to talent (tremendous).


The cast can only be so culpable. Director Jamie Babbit (But I'm a Cheerleader) and the writers, Micah Schraft and Abdi Nazemian, are equally guilty. The overwhelming flaw in the film is its unmistakable sense of contrived TV-movie-of-the-week melodrama. It is genuinely an exercise in giggle control to watch on as, character after character, some shock tactic is supposed to stir us. But apparently Babbit doesn"t know that most of us have either personally sat through suburban depravity or American Beauty, and what"s presented here is, in this day in age, nothing but one big, woeful, perpetual cliché. The film also looks like a TV movie--always dark, foggy, misty and rainy, but never ominous. The icing on the stale cake, though, is the wealth of are-you-kidding-me? lines that are meant in earnest and uttered during the film"s more dramatic scenes; the best of the worst--opening voice-over notwithstanding--come from a confused high-school hunk (Shawn Ashmore) but are, alas, too vulgar to repeat.

Bottom Line rated this film 1/2 star.