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Smart People is a American comedy-drama film starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page and Thomas Haden Church. The film was directed by Noam Murro and written by Mark Poirier. It was filmed on location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, including several scenes at Carnegie Mellon Universitymarker and the Pittsburgh International Airportmarker. The film premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where North American distribution rights were acquired by Miramax Films. The film was released widely on April 11, 2008.


Carnegie Mellonmarker English Professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is a depressed middle-aged widower. He is bitter and arrogant at work, uninterested in his students, and alienated from his two children. His adopted ne'er-do-well brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), arrives to borrow money and stays for a while as he tries to unwind Lawrence's lonely, overachieving teenage daughter, Vanessa (Ellen Page).

Meanwhile, Lawrence suffers a trauma-induced seizure after falling from the top of a fence in an attempt to retrieve his briefcase from inside his impounded car. In the emergency room, he is treated by a sympathetic doctor, Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), who is a former student he does not remember. Janet tells Lawrence that because of his seizure, he is not allowed to drive for six months. When he returns home from the hospital, Chuck is still there, and he offers to drive for him while he is unable.

When Lawrence returns to the hospital for a followup visit he is surprised that it is not with Janet but with Dr. Strauss (David Denman), a friend of Janet, who reminds him that she had been one of his students. He meets Janet again outside the hospital as he is leaving and, since Chuck has failed to show up, she offers to take him home. When they arrive, he asks Janet to join him for a "face-to-face conversation." She agrees, fulfilling a long-ago crush with the professor. Vanessa verbalizes her displeasure, confronting Janet about Lawrence's fragility. At dinner, Lawrence displays his stultifying arrogance by monopolizing the conversation and Janet walks out. Lawrence fakes a visit to the emergency room to see Janet again and the two reconcile for a second date. They get back to Janet's place where they engage in sexual intercourse, but while spending the night, Janet is turned off by Lawrence's neediness and worries that he is, in fact, still too distraught by his wife's death. To get rid of him, she feigns being called in by the hospital and does not return any of his subsequent calls. On another night, in the midst of a contentious family Christmas dinner at the Wetherholds', Janet arrives unannounced with a cake.

After Chuck gets Vanessa drunk to celebrate her early acceptance into Stanford Universitymarker, she makes a pass at him, which he rejects. He then moves in part-time with Lawrence's son, James (Ashton Holmes), in his college dormitory.

James' girlfriend, Missy (Camille Mana), who is one of his father's students, tells Lawrence that James has had a poem accepted by The New Yorker. In contrast, Lawrence's latest academic tome has been universally rejected. After Vanessa suggests a new title, You Can't Read!, the book is sold to Penguin Group, a large non-academic publisher in New Yorkmarker. To Lawrence's dismay, however, the book is largely re-worked and edited by the publisher and only vaguely resembles his original work. Janet accompanies Lawrence on a trip to New York to meet with the publisher where she learns she is pregnant by him. Preoccupied by his book's publishing and an on-going campaign to become chairman of the English Department, Janet is again upset by Lawrence's self-absorption and breaks up without telling him the news.

Back in Pittsburgh, Lawrence is confronted by both James and Chuck, who both point to his apparent disinterest in his children's lives. Encouraged by Chuck, Lawrence goes to the hospital to reconcile with Janet, who reveals her pregnancy. He has meanwhile dropped his bid to become department head and has become a more involved parent and professor.

During the end credits, Lawrence and Janet cradle twin babies: one boy and one girl.


Dennis Quaid on the set of Smart People at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.


The film was originally set at Georgetown Universitymarker in Washington, D.C.marker, but filming an independent film in that city was deemed too difficult.

Filming at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh occurred in November and December 2006. The house used as that of the Wetherholds is in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Friendshipmarker. The shooting schedule was compressed by Hollywood standards, at 29 days. According to the director, Noam Murro, in the audio commentary of the DVD, filming was actually completed before that of Juno.

The photographs of the cast holding twin babies in the credits appear to be a nod to actor Dennis Quaid's twins born in November 2007, and his subsequent awareness campaign over medical drug dosage errors.

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews. As of March 10, 2009, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 49% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 134 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 57 out of 100, based on 33 reviews. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times all gave the film more positive reviews. However, the movie is included in the Hunt For the Worst Movie of All Time, which gives out predictably bad reviews.[380857]

Box office performance

In its opening weekend, the film grossed an estimated $4.2 million in 1,106 theaters in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, ranking #7 at the box office. The first week gross was estimated at $5.7 million. As of July 29, 2008, the movie has received $9,511,289 in the United States box office while receiving $1,069,335 overseas making a worldwide gross of $11,800,736 .


The soundtrack from Smart People was released on April 8, 2008 and contained music by Nuno Bettencourt.
  1. "This Is Your Life" by Nuno Bettencourt
  2. "Q.P.D." by Nuno Bettencourt
  3. "Stitch" by Baby Animals
  4. "Early Checkout" by Nuno Bettencourt
  5. "Need I Say More" by Cherone
  6. "Rush You" by Baby Animals
  7. "Lotus" by Nuno Bettencourt
  8. "Flow" by Nuno Bettencourt
  9. "You Still Need Me" by Baby Animals
  10. "School Girl Crush" by Nuno Bettencourt
  11. "If Only" by Nuno Bettencourt
  12. "Hamburger In Bed" by Nuno Bettencourt
  13. "Pursuit of Happiness" by Nuno Bettencourt


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