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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Movie review: The Quiet *


Since many of you live there, you tell me: Are the suburbs a living hell? Or does it just feel that way when you re young and creative and you ve left behind greater Minneapolis or Hartford to direct movies on the right and left coasts? The Quiet, which opens today, is the latest dutiful example of how the old stereotype of the Big Bad City has been replaced by the Creepy Suburbs.

So tell me. The suburbs. Awash in addiction, anorexia, sexual abuse, murder, rape, dislocation, peer pressure, pill-popping, and general nastiness directed at the physically challenged right? Not your home, of course. Your home is perfectly normal. The other guy, the people next door lots of sick stuff going on, no?

For instance, the Deer family.

Mom (Edie Falco, eyes comically popping from her head) is heavily medicated and remodelling crazed. Dad (Martin Donovan) is a pleasant-voiced psychopath. Daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) wears her cheerleader costume at all times, smooches dad in suggestive ways, and stays relentlessly insolent 24-7.

The perfect family to adopt.

Dot (Camilla Belle) is a sullen, grave teenager, newly orphaned. She moves in with the Deer clan. She does not speak or hear and she hasn t since she was 7. She narrates the film please, decorum, no laughter, the girl doesn t speak, she s traumatized. That doesn t mean she s can t narrate. What s that? Therapy? Bore-ring. What s that? How come everyone in the Deer family assumes Dot can t hear when her deafness is psychosomatic a result of emotional issues?

Stop it!

You re ruining the metaphor!

The Deers reveal a catalog of horrors to Dot they would never bring up around each other, which in most households leads to homicide. What? That s true.

That s not a horrible premise for a movie, either, revealing the ugly underbelly of tree-lined streets and financially comfortable families worked fine for The Ice Storm and American Beauty, among many others. But director Jamie Babbit sends this thing careering so far over the top, the only thing separating it from Jerry Springer is the water-purifier in the kitchen.

The characters are wafer thin. The dialogue is pure Dear Diary, when I am in a crowd of people I am invisible stuff. And unforgivably no, astonishingly the material is treated with such lyrical art-house solemnity, you re denied the lunatic pleasures of a genuine exploitation flick.

The Quiet goes beyond the standard low-rent bugaboos tossed into a multiplex during late summer, though not nearly enough. In its pretensions to class, tone-deaf (sorry) cheerleaders, and kitchen-sink plot, it resembles if nothing else the soft-focus sleaze you find at 3 a.m. on tonier pay-cable stations appropriate, as that s where you ll likely stumble on The Quiet six months from now.

Silence, please! (Thank you.)

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com or 419-724-6117.

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