Quiet, The (2006)
Release Date: August 25th, 2006 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jamie Babbit Actors: Elisha Cuthbert, Camilla Belle, Edie Falco, Martin Donovan, Shawn Ashmore, Katy Mixon, David Gallagher, Shannon Woodward
t would not be entirely untrue to say that “The Quiet” contains a little bit of everything. It has sex, drugs, nudity, mystery, horror, drama, and suspense. It contains incest, molestation, Beethoven, the X-Men, lesbianism, and cannibalism. It also has plenty of perverse discussions, a teddy bear torture scene, sleep-inducing narration, delectable Sour Patch Kids, a good garroting, a high school dance, the girl next door, and more unintentional humor than there is salt in the ocean. Unfortunately, the only things it’s missing are a plausible plot, serious dialogue, and a reason for having been made.
The story follows Dot (Camilla Belle), a young deaf-mute girl, as she goes to live with her godparents, after her father dies in a car accident. Because of her handicap, she’s looked at as an outcast by her classmates and shunned even by Nina (Elisha Cuthbert), her new “sister.” Though hiding dark secrets of her own, Dot discovers even more disturbing happenings within her adoptive surroundings. And as her friends and relatives begin to use her to unburden their own troubled thoughts, she seems destined to end up not only as an accomplice to murder but also as a witness to the total destruction of her extremely dysfunctional family.
Though Dot narrates throughout the picture, the audience is still left in a disquieting darkness as to her true emotions and motives, which never really surface until the very end. Her abnormally bizarre behaviors are simply passed off as teen angst and depression, further disorienting the viewer from the already sketchy boundaries of sanity. Anything anyone could relate to as normalcy is peculiarly absent from “The Quiet.”
The end credits claim the film is a work of pure fiction, but one has to wonder how a writer could fathom such a story without some experience in a comparably maladaptive setting. Then one has to wonder why such fairly prominent young actors would agree to star in such a film. The major problem with “The Quiet” is that it never knows what it wants to be, and in turn, the audience will be left out of the narrative loop. Is it a dark melodrama, a spellbinding mystery, a psychological thriller, or a deranged comedy? The film doesn’t know how to take itself seriously when it ought to, while the absurdly obscene dialogue certainly doesn’t help. Every time equilibrium is obtained and it appears that a sincere, potentially poignant, maybe meaningful scene is about to transpire, someone blurts out a speech so preposterous that the audience will have no choice but to stifle a laugh. At least the cast had enough skill not to chuckle as they recited their lines.
As the film progresses, the plot becomes ever more disturbing – but the unintentional humor always manages to keep the graveness in check. “The Quiet” aspires to be a Todd Solondz film, but goes about it in entirely the wrong way. The prevalent themes reflect those found in “Storytelling” or “Happiness” – but where those films shocked, entertained, and emotionally engaged their audiences, “The Quiet” only disgusts, reviles, and systematically alienates them. And an awkward, droning narration by Dot precedes every few scenes, prattlingly reminding viewers that calms always come before storms, Beethoven was better after losing his hearing, and sleeping through this production is only a blink away. “The Quiet” is the kind of movie that must be seen to be believed, a veritable what-not-to-do in making a Hollywood drama.
– Joel Massie