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Struck Dumb

Struck Dumb

“Daddy says I’m the best at it….”

You know those kinds of movies where you sit there in a stupor, for, oh, say, an hour, rolling your eyes, checking your watch, aghast at the stupidity that is unspooling before you in a way such as you’ve seen a million times but never quite so idiotically—and then something happens? You crinkle your nose a little, furrow your brow. A light doesn’t go off so much as a dim bulb diffuses your recognition patterns a little. A line of dialogue or an overbaked shot goes a little too far, and you think to yourself: “Wait a second…is this supposed to be a joke?”

Case in point: Jamie Babbit’s The Quiet, ostensible child-abuse thriller and secrets-in-the-suburbs teen melodrama, chockablock with hilarious one-liners delivered in Hal Hartley straight-face (yes, Hartley regular Martin Donovan, king of the droopy-eyed creepazoids, co-stars) and overwrought cinematography (how many shafts of light can enter a home nestled in a forested area?). Opening this Friday, thanks to a slumming Sony Pictures Classics, after a long time on the shelf, The Quiet is the kind of film that opens with a voice-over line like “All I ever wanted was to be invisible.” And it’s the kind of film that shows a zoned-out, pill-popping suburban mom (is there any other kind in film these days?) staring silently, Liv Ullmann–like, at a TV news program of a blazing neighborhood fire as she stands in an empty, blue-tinged room (the film is so stiltedly “sleek” it seems like Rob Lowe, circa 1991, could show up at any moment).

But there’s more. So so so much more. Whether The Quiet will one day be recouped as a Showgirls style sign o’ the times satire remains to be seen. For now, check out Reverse Shot’s indieWIRE round-up on Jamie Babbit’s maybe-comedy to find out more about what not to spend your money on at the movies this weekend.

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