'The Quiet' a dramatic disaster

BRUCE KIRKLAND - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:39 AM ET

PLOT: Two traumatized teens, one a hottie cheerleader, the other an orphaned deaf girl, slowly reveal their terrifying secrets and move together towards a tragic climax.

The Quiet explores a human tragedy. Mentioning what it is would ruin any glimmer of tension or surprise that the film manages to muster.

Trust me, though, this is serious family stuff that involves a social problem and a criminal act that would make any sensible person recoil.

Good films have been made about the issue involved. But this is not one of them. In fact, it is an absolute dramatic disaster.

Despite obvious valiant efforts to sell the story, the cast led by Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle is left to flounder.

Each is dumped into gruesome, phony situations without lifelines and obliged to say stupid things. If the subject matter was not so damn' depressing, this dialogue would be camp-style laughable.

So don't blame the actors, even though there is no performance worth praising here.

The Quiet was directed by Jamie Babbit, whose directing debut, the lesbian satire But I'm A Cheerleader, sparked interest and earned her some credibility in indie film circles. That good will is now destroyed, because her work here is dismal, with no sense of control.

Set in a suburban Connecticut town, The Quiet revolves around an apparently perky, hugely popular, high school cheerleader (Elisha Cuthbert). Her cool world is compromised when her drugged-up mom (Edie Falco) and uptight dad (Martin Donovan) bring home a newly orphaned teen who happens to be their goddaughter.

The newbie (Camilla Belle) is a deaf mute who enjoys acting the role of a misfit. She shuns her schoolmates and they treat her like a freak.

Meanwhile, a star athlete (Shawn Ashmore from X-Men) develops a crush on Belle's character. Bizarrely, he feels he can share his angst and inner turmoil with the deaf girl just by rattling on while she cannot see his lips move. Makes him feel safe.

There are other complications, especially in the family home, which has been turned topsy-turvy by the arrival of Belle's character.

There is also a wild card, the brassy girl (Katy Mixon) who rules the school with Cuthbert's character. This core group of characters will move the plot toward its violent climax.

I have no problem with films that trade in difficult, even depressing issues, but The Quiet seems to be utterly clueless about what it actually wants to say.

And the filmmakers display little competence in even telling the basics of the story in any logical way.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite its ambitious attempt to grapple with a serious social and criminal problem, this film is an absolute disaster in the execution. It should stay quiet -- as in silent -- because it has nothing to say.

(This film is rated 18-A)


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