Quiet, The

The Quiet, written by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft and directed by Jamie Babbit, is a silly idea for a movie. An orphaned high school girl called Dot (Camilla Belle) who is apparently deaf and dumb like her late father goes to live with the dysfunctional family of her late mother’s best friend, Olivia Deer (Edie Falco). Dot becomes the recipient of everybody’s secrets — and what a lot of secrets they have! — since, because of her condition, it is assumed that she can neither hear nor repeat them. This would be hard enough to swallow, but it gets worse. As she takes on board the pill-popping Olivia’s real opinion of her mother, the masturbatory habits of a boyfriend (Shawn Ashmore), the sexual abuse of her adoptive sister (Elisha Cuthbert) by her father (Martin Donovan), the father’s confession and the sister’s plans to kill him, none of it intended to be heard by her, Dot becomes an ever-more Godlike figure. She imagines she is invisible to others, and she becomes all-seeing, all-knowing — and claimant of the sole right to vengeance.

Sound creepy? Alas, it’s not. Dot is much too solemn and moral and boring. Even her pretense of deafness is assumed for the most high-minded reasons. Perhaps to underline her links with the divine, she plays piano sonatas by Beethoven, whose music and whose deafness she discusses in voiceover monologues. Sample: “I imagine his mind must have been the loudest silence in history.” Words to remember! Or rather, to sound impressive and then be forgotten. Miss Belle already has one movie about incest under her belt, Rebecca Miller’s Ballad of Jack and Rose, in which she also plays a highly moral immoralist. As she is not yet 20, you’d think she’d be looking to broaden her range a little.

Meanwhile, Miss Falco pushes her capacity for wifely denial, already pretty impressive on The Sopranos, to new heights, and Mr Donovan seems to find playing a mere caricature, the ultimate bad dad and domestic tyrant whose evil is invisible to the rest of the world, acutely painful. The pretense of nymphomania in Miss Cuthbert’s best friend (Katy Mixon) may be intended for some reason to balance Dot’s pretense of deafness, but it has no other purpose here, while her own education by Dot in how not to be a mean girl is too easy and a cliché of the high school movie that The Quiet tries vainly not to resemble. All in all, you’d have to say that there’s not much here to tempt anyone who has completed high school.

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