Judge Brendan Babish misses the good old days when T and A were a requisite for teen thrillers.
Isn't it time everyone hears your secrets?
In late summer 2006 the kinky teen thriller The Quiet couldn't even muster half a million dollars at the box office. Will it find its audience on DVD?
Facts of the Case
Dot (Camilla Belle, The Ballad of Jack and Rose) is an orphaned deaf teenager who has been inexplicably adopted by the most dysfunctional family in America. The mother (Edie Falco, The Sopranos) is an emotionally crippled alcoholic, the teenage daughter, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert, The Girl Next Door), is an obnoxious brat, and I don't even want to get into what the father's (Martin Donovan, The Opposite of Sex) deal is.
Because Dot is deaf, everyone in town seems to be comfortable telling her their innermost thoughts: Nina whispers curse-laden abuse in her ear, others divulge their sexual peculiarities, and someone even admits to murderous thoughts. Is there any way in which the feckless Dot will be able to understand what's being told to her, and take the appropriate action?
In 1995's brilliant The Ballad of Jack and Rose the young Camilla Belle held her own against one of the best actors alive, Daniel Day-Lewis. It was the first time I had seen her, and I made a mental note to keep track of her career. A few months later I saw the trailer for The Quiet, and—despite a general skepticism regarding teen thrillers—looked forward to its release. Then I read the early reviews, and didn't even bother looking to see whether the film played in my local theaters.
Indeed, it takes only a few minutes to realize that The Quiet is not very good. The dark lighting is self-consciously foreboding, the characters are unaccountably odd and threatening, and the story is ludicrous. And then there's the voice over. Despite being deaf, and apparently mute, Dot somehow manages to provide philosophical musings that, while rarely expounding on the plot, attempt to enhance the film's larger themes. But observations like "One day we wake up and we realize the world sucks" only further diminish what little integrity the dialogue and cinematography hadn't already stolen away.
All this adds up to a predictable plot and an atmosphere of disinterest. I suppose if I wasn't already lulled into a stupor a half hour into the film I would have rankled at such abhorrent behavior from nearly every character, but The Quiet so consistently rang false I never cared enough to mind.
Though early on one is likely to give up hope for a legitimately good thriller, there are still a few comely ladies in the cast, and plenty of teasingly erotic allusions in the dialogue. But sadly, The Quiet manages to fail on this level as well, providing almost no titillation. The film's only nudity is not provided by any of its female leads, and the movie's two sexual situations are both highly uncomfortable. To get an idea of how poorly the filmmakers' understand the teen-thriller genre, or the teen-thriller audience, one early scene has the pulchritudinous Cuthbert sharing a bed with a full-figured female classmate. It's late at night, the room is dark, and they're both under the covers. But nothing happens.
So The Quiet is basically a thriller with no thrills, of a suspenseful or carnal nature. This is particularly upsetting because Camilla Belle—who gives an adequate performance here—went on to further squander her talent in last year's When a Stranger Calls. And I don't have much hope for next film: Roland Emmerich's 10,000 B.C.. Maybe this is just a phase.
It seems like 70 percent of The Quiet was filmed in unnatural dark blue lighting. While this undermines the film's story (the director, Jamie Babbit, should have allowed the script to do most of the work in setting a tone), it does have its aesthetic merits. The DVD picture is crisp and clear, and there's even a special feature explaining how the movie got such a high quality picture using digital film. Additionally, there are some other inconsequential features that include interviews with the cast, and the breakdown of a scene—the Fetal Pig scene, to be exact, which is in no way as appalling as it sounds.
Unfortunately, The Quiet provides no suspense, and takes itself too seriously to provide quality kitsch, either. I suppose it will provide moderate interest at Blockbuster Video, as people fall for the alluring cover of two attractive young actresses. I hope you don't get fooled.
Guilty of neither scaring me nor turning me on. For shame.
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Scales of Justice
• "Fetal Pig, Fetal Pig, Let Me In:" Dissecting the Dissection Scene
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