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The Quiet
Ari Briskman / Sony Pictures Classic
Dot (Camilla Belle) is the pretty young deaf girl who's come to stay with popular cheerleader Nina (Elisha Cuthbert), who has a secret of her own in "The Quiet."
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updated 8/24/2006 6:24:00 PM ET 2006-08-24T22:24:00
REVIEW

“The Quiet” is a drama about a pretty teenage girl who’s lost her hearing — but did the movie itself have to be tone deaf?

Not a single moment feels believable in the film, which is trying very hard to be a sexy, intense psychological thriller but instead just feels lurid and exploitative. Not a single person feels relatable; everyone’s actions are either deplorable or pathetic. Or both.

The worst part is that it wastes a talented cast, including Elisha Cuthbert and Edie Falco — actors we know can shine when given the opportunity. What they have to work with in “The Quiet,” which was directed by Jamie Babbit from a script by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft, merely asks them to sleepwalk through myriad suburban cliches, sometimes literally.

Cuthbert plays Nina Deer, a petulant, popular cheerleader who’s misunderstood. Falco plays her mom, Olivia, who’s passed out on the living room floor when we first see her, the result of her chronic pill-popping. (“It’s hard work decorating, Paul,” she mumbles to her husband. “I have to rely on the French and the Italians to send me fabric.” Certainly Carmela Soprano can relate, but she has the benefit of better writing.)

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Then there’s daddy (Martin Donovan), who’s entirely too close to his little girl, something that’s hinted at early but in no time we’re seeing him climb into bed with her — we’re hearing Nina revel in describing their secret relationship in graphic terms that make you feel sick in the pit of your stomach. If this is intended as a piercing look at how pampered families can keep powerful secrets, it misses the mark entirely. Instead, it’s just shameless.

Into this toxic mix comes Dot (Camilla Belle), Paul and Olivia’s goddaughter who moves in with them after her father dies. Belle, the naturally beautiful young star of “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” and the remake of “When a Stranger Calls” is startlingly unglammed here, wearing Joan Jett’s feathered mullet and no makeup.

Dot lost her hearing at age 7, after her mother died. So now for some reason she’s stuck on the receiving end of everyone’s unsolicited confessions. Sometimes the words are troubling (as when Nina tells her about the molestation) and sometimes they’re unintentionally hilarious (as when a boy who has a crush on her, played by Shawn Ashmore from the “X-Men” movies, explains in detail about how much she, um, inspires him when he’s alone in his room at night).

Naturally the secrets don’t stay that way for long, especially since — that’s right — Dot has a secret of her own.

Babbit previously directed the clunky “But I’m a Cheerleader,” which also seemed interested in shocking for shock’s sake. She also has a long list of far more wholesome TV credits, including “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Gilmore Girls.” Here, though, it seems as if her main aesthetic influence was Adrian Lyne. Every frame of “The Quiet,” with its overly styled blue-gray tint and hazy interiors, calls to mind “9½ Weeks,” “Fatal Attraction” or “Unfaithful,” movies that actually were suspenseful.

If you’re on the edge of your seat this time, it’s only because you can’t wait to rush out of the theater — and go home to wash off the stank.

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