A film that does its best to make the horrendous palatable, and the unthinkable titillating, The Quiet can be either (depending on your taste) a wrenching experience, or merely worth a giggle. It is, after all, a film about a deaf-mute teenaged girl named Dot (Camilla Belle), sent to live with her weird godparents and their popular cheerleader Nina (Elisha Cuthbert) after her father dies -- so really one can only take it so seriously. Clichés are the order of the day, with bitchy cheerleaders ruling the high school cafeteria and deep, nasty secrets discovered by people who just happen to be walking down darkened hallways in the depths of night. And if one has to ask whether this seemingly placid suburban environment is about to be torn asunder by scandal, one really hasn't watched enough television.
Director Jamie Babbit hardly showed much promise with her debut film, the stiff, one-note 1999 comedy But I'm a Cheerleader, but one would have thought that the intervening years spent directing episodes of such sharp TV comedies as Malcolm in the Middle and Gilmore Girls would have honed her talent somewhat. No such luck. The Quiet is so tone-deaf that when it should be eliciting sympathy or empathy, it comes off as simply amateur comedy -- Pretty Persuasion without the guts. She's put together a good enough cast here, with Edie Falco and Martin Donovan playing Nina's parents (the former a prescription-medication-zonked stereotype and the latter a creepy and controlling menace), though they're mostly marooned amidst the cartoonish plot of adolescent brooding and familial dysfunction. As Dot, Belle is stuck with providing her dialogue via maudlin voiceover ("I am invisible") while Cuthbert has to do what she can with a script that sends her character ping-ponging between damaged, vulnerable victim and Heathers-esque school-dominating bitch.
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