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With Jim Sabatini

The Quiet

The Quiet
Camilla Belle, Martin Donovan, Edie Falco, Elisha Cuthbert and Shawn Ashmore

Rated: R  for strong and disturbing sexual content, a scene of violence, language, drug content and brief nudity
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 25, 2006 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

This teen drama could have been an intriguing lucubration on some unsettling issues in an upscale Connecticut setting. But, The Quiet is a lubricious, turgid atonal picture floundering in its lurid mindset.

As directed by small-screen veteran Jamie Babbit ("Gilmore Girls"), she's into the high-school milieu and cheerleading again as in her contemptuously campy, and colorful But I'm A Cheerleader. However, here, the mood is more solemn and the look dank. That doesn't heighten the mystery or any psychological depth from the story or characters.

From the age of seven after her mother's death, Dot (Camilla Belle) has been mute and deaf. Now, at seventeen, the orphaned goddaughter of two tightly-wound parents (Martin Donovan of The Sentinel and Edie Falco of Freedomland) is welcomed into their home. It doesn't sit well with their sarcastic, pretty cheerleading daughter, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert of House of Wax, The Girl Next Door).

The disquieting nature of Dot and Nina work into the screenplay which intersects their lives. It turns out they both harbor secrets as well as some characters confiding more with one than probably themselves. More than one have much to say about their physical aspects, especially Dot's new boyfriend Connor (Shawn Ashmore of X-Men: The Last Stand). Yet, nothing salient is revealed in the belittling, ostracizing high-school milieu. The major problem Babbit has from the script is developing some kind of forward momentum as some viewers will have wished it all to be less stultifying and more sleazy.

Near the climax, which involves judicious use of piano wire, The Quiet becomes nothing short of ridiculous in its ominously tantalizing way. Is that due, in part, to the way the performers carry it all off? Not really, to a high degree, while filmed in a monochromatic digitally misty palette and unable to shed a pestering plot. Cuthbert and Belle (When a Stranger Calls) have their alluring scenes, almost able to make one forget the subtle eerieness of Donovan or Falco's zombie habituation. Nevertheless, it's hard not to think that the use of silence could have been used to much less gratuitous effect. Even a campy result would have been more welcome than something this tone-deaf.

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