Film review by: Witney Seibold
It’s a chamber drama straight out of Jackie Collins: The cheery suburban Deer couple (Martin Donovan and Edie Falco) has just taken in their teenage deaf-mute goddaughter Dot (Camilla Belle) at the chagrin of their pretty blonde cheerleader daughter Nina (Elisha Cuthbert, playing a teenager at age 24). Dot narrates the film, and observes the tense family dynamics. Nina gabs with her cheerleader friends, has slumber parties, and has a secret hatred of her father. Why, do you ask? Because Dot has caught dad and daughter having a secret incestuous affair! Can she keep the secret? To make matters worse, Nina has become wise to the fact that Dot is not a deaf-mute at all, but has been posing as one in order to observe people. That means when Nina confesses her plans to kill daddy, Dot has become an unwitting accomplice. Dunh dunh DUNH!
The problem with Jamie Babbit’s “The Quiet” is not that the film extends into trashy melodrama, but that it doesn’t extend into trashy melodrama nearly enough. All the elements are there: murder, lies, incest, Edie Falco topless, schemes, hidden lesbian agendas… but the film never lets loose, grows teeth, and lets itself become the true trash that is obviously wants to become. Just when it’s about to explode into something truly wicked and sleazy, it backs off. Case in point: Nina and one of her cheerleader buddies (a very good and minx-like Katy Mixon) have a scene where they’re both lying on Nina’s bed, both still in their cheerleader costumes, talking about kissing boys, and trying to figure out how they could become better kissers. I’ve seen porn features that begin this way. The logic of true Exploitation would dictate that they immediately begin making out with one another. But no, the film doesn’t let it happen.
Edie Falco does have a nude scene (and God bless her too, for having the courage), but a film like his calls more much more than Ms. Falco can provide. The implied romance/sexuality that eventually grows between Dot and Nina is never fully explored, and turns into a strange abstract regard. I don’t want strange abstract regard in a setup like this. I want to see the two of them making out over the corpse of someone they killed together. The lack of lesbian content is all the more disappointing when one realizes that director Babbit is herself a lesbian, has directed two lesbian films (“But I’m a Cheerleader” and “The Itty-Bitty Titty Committee”). Perhaps she didn’t want to go down the porn road, but if that was the case, this was not the film she should have made.
Mind you, I’m not shouting out for nudity and girl-on-girl kisses for prurient reasons (well, not wholly prurient reasons), but because “The Quiet” aesthetically demands it. It wants to be trash, but in a clean way. It’s a prudish version of a dirty story, like reading pulp smut with the dirty words blacked out. The screenplay (by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft) I learned was the winner of a screenplay contest. Perhaps a few more drafts would have been a better idea.
Am I just a trash-thirsty American lashing out at a laidback Canadian sensibility? No, Canadians can be trashy if they want to. And they should have been.
Poor Elisha Cuthbert. As I said in my review of “Capitivity,” she’s a pretty young actress who, while not the most talented person working, certainly deserves a different career than the one she’s getting. Let’s hope she finds the right project before vanishing completely.