The Quiet

(2006) ** 1/2 R
97 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Jamie Babbit. Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Edie Falco, Camilla Belle, Shawn Ashmore, Martin Donovan.

Shot in claustrophobic underwater blues, Jamie Babbit's moody thriller The Quiet slowly raises the sunken secrets of a suburban neighborhood. This is well-trodden territory, but Babbit and her cast deserve credit for sharply observed characterizations amid the lurid provocations.

Elisha Cuthbert plays Nina, the cheerleader daughter of burnout Olivia (Edie Falco) and impulsive, short-tempered dad Paul (Martin Donovan). Camilla Belle plays Dot, a deaf-mute teen whose presence in Nina's home disrupts her already irritable existence. Nina's a holy terror who lashes out angrily at her parents and her friends, so one can imagine what she does to her enemies. One enemy in particular, who has secretly hurt her, is a candidate for murder, but Nina counts on Dot's silence.

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: The Last Stand) turns up as Connor, a self-described "sex addict with a learning disorder who forgot to play baseball" and potential love interest for Dot. Ashmore and Belle share a credibly awkward poolside clinch; meanwhile, Nina and her ostensible best friend Michelle (Katy Mixon) dance around each other, since Michelle is clearly a lesbian in denial.

But it's the wary friendship of Nina and Dot that gives the film its most genuine intrigue, with each character pretending to be someone she's not and each in some ways envious of the other. Nina covets Dot's ability to be "a major enigma" remaining just outside the harsh high-school spotlight, while Dot admires Nina's boldness.

Only by fearlessly reaching out to each other can the girls defeat their demons. That's a good message for teen girls (Dot concludes, "Being invisible isn't worth it in the end"), and Nina's initial bad behavior—cheap highs and callous disregard for world events—provides an instructive negative example.

Though the script by Micah Schraft and Abdi Nazemian can be a bit "on the nose" in demonstrating significance ("Lies keep us safe from the truth," Dot narrates), meanders at times, and stretches credibility, The Quiet's creepy character study reaches an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

[For Groucho's interview with Elisha Cuthbert, click here, and for his interview with Jamie Babbit, click here.]

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 2/13/2007

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

Sony's special edition of The Quiet offers 5.1 Surround, optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired, and an anamorphic hi-def transfer that accuartely represents the film's deep shadows and color tones.

The collection of bonus featurettes give an all-access feel. "Fetal Pig, Fetal Pig, Let Me In" (4:49) "dissects" the dissection scene with candid behind-the-scenes footage and comments by property master Mark Wallace and screenwriters Schraft and Nazemian. "Locations: Shooting in Austin" (7:24) includes generous location footage and sit-downs with Babbit, Wallace, cinematographer David Mullen and, briefly, actors Ashmore and David Gallagher.

"Sans Celluloid: The Quiet and Digital Cinema" (4:32) allows Babbit, Mullen, and executive director of the UT Film Institute Tom Schatz to explain the considerations that went into the decision to shoot the film in HD. Schraft and Nazemian, Babbit, producer Andrea Sperling, and Edie Falco all take part in the extensive segment "Script Development" (9:31). After a strong focus on production, "The Cast" (09:52) finally comes back around to the actors, with Babbit, Sperling, producer Joel Michaely, Donovan, Falco, Cuthbert, and Mixon participating (inexplicably, Belle is a no-show).

Previews include The Italian, Curse of the Golden Flower, Volver, Driving Lessons, American Hardcore, House of Sand, Art School Confidential, Quinceañera, Dreamland, and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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