Archive for April, 2008

Smart People; Stupid Errors

New director Noam Murro’s film, Smart People, provides a window into the manner by which even the most book-smart family can be emotion-stupid.

It is the story of a stodgy and dislikeable english professor at Carnegie-Mellon University named Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid). Lawrence is a widower, having lost his wife at some unknown point in the past. He has been raising a son and daughter on his own, but has remained so emotionally distant that his son is estranged from him and his daughter is so hungry for affection that she tries to seduce her uncle.

Everything changes for Lawrence when he goes to visit his son at college. After the inadvertent and unexpected discovery that his son is a poet, his car is towed. He realizes that his latest manuscript is in the back seat of the car, and tries to “liberate” the manuscript from the impounded vehicle.

While climbing the fence he falls, striking his head and suffering a “traumatic seizure.” This accomplishes two narrative tasks, introduces him to Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), and keeps him from being able to drive for six months.

As a result, Larry hires his adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), to drive for him. Chuck provides a pot-smoking, frat-boy counterpoint to Larry’s stodgy, alcoholic professor. He is also, unsurprisingly, the answer to the family’s needs. . . .

I have to admit that I was somewhat put off by the movie’s medical inaccuracies. For example, in one scene a neurologist examines a head injury patient with a slit lamp instead of the direct ophthalmoscope that would have been much more likely. For most viewers this oversight would not present a problem, however for me it was a glaring medical error that diluted some of my enjoyment of the film.

In another scene, the main character, Larry Wetherhold, is evaluated in an emergency department following a fall. He is told by Dr. Janet Hartigan that he has suffered a “trauma-induced seizure” after the fall and thus cannot drive for six months.

Contrary to what the movie would have viewers believe, traumatic seizures are relatively rare without an aneurysmal bleed, subarachnoid/epidural hematoma or severe pre-existing trauma with resulting encephalomalacia.

Although these errors frustrated me, I suspect they passed unnoticed by most viewers. However, a movie with a significant medical plotline should have a competent medical advisor on staff to prevent such problems.

I enjoyed the movie, despite the above reservations.  I give it (***) three Jessicas out of a possible four.


The Bank Job

bank job 1

Roger Donaldson’s new film, The Bank Job, is inconsistent but enjoyable. Donaldson has made his name with prior films such as Cadillac Man, The Getaway, and Thirteen Days.

Reportedly a true story, The Bank Job tells the story of a petty criminal named Terry Leather (played adequately by an uncharacteristically non-choppy-socky Jason Statham) who is offered the opportunity to lead a bank heist. He is joined in his efforts by a motley collection of pseudo-criminals, including the comely Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), soft-featured Dave Shilling (Daniel Mays), and several others.

However, all is not as it seems. The heist is actually an attempt by British Intelligence to obtain a collection of compromising photos taken of Princess Margaret and being used for blackmail. The photos are being held in a safe deposit box, which is the ostensible target for the heist.

To complicate matters, also in the vault is a vast collection of other blackmail material, including compromising pictures of members of parliament, a local pornographer’s ledger for payments made to corrupt cops. This creates a complex web of interaction between seedy police officers, compromised British Intelligence operatives, pornographers and criminals, and our hapless and unsophisticated bank robbers.

The movie begins inconsistently, with a combination of musical montages and stilted interactions between characters on the show. Toward the middle, however, it seems to catch its stride and remains enjoyable through the end of the film.

I enjoyed it overall despite initial mixed feelings about the film. I give it two-and-a-half Jessicas out of four. Certainly worth a rental or matinee.