Paley reminiscent of Carrie, Heathers, Jawbreaker, and even the more lurid sister-dramas of Bette Davis, the classy/trashy 2006 release The Quiet is a heavy-handed gothic thriller that touches on every teen phobia from incest, to eating disorders, to not making the cheerleaders' squad.
A luminous Camilla Belle plays Dot, a deaf-mute orphan who's recently been taken in by the dysfunctional parents of her childhood best friend, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert). Popular and pretty Nina's no longer friendly, and as she sets out to make Dot's life a living hell, we get a glimpse into her own hellish existence. Nina's overly affectionate dad (Martin Donovan) gets his jollies between his daughter's bed-sheets, while her nearly catatonic, home-décor obsessed mom (Edie Falco) pops pills between crying jags.
Dot tries to stay on the sidelines and just watch the madness unfold in her silent, judgmental manner, but when Nina draws her into a fatal web, Dot's own dark secrets come to the fore. Nasty sex, bitch-slapping and malevolent teen pranks are peppered throughout the plot, which culminates in a big showdown at the prom. Crazily compulsive viewing, The Quiet is definitely deserving of cult status.
It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry while watching The Quiet — female director Jamie Babbit (next up: Itty Bitty Titty Committee in 2007) does an interesting job on helming this quirky, unsettling film which was penned unabashedly by the green screenwriting team of Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft. The trio can't quite keep all the ben-wa balls in the air, but considering the subject matter, I can't think of a better way to unfurl the sordid story (fortunately, all of the actors are very much up to the task).
The music is moody, and most impressive is the gorgeously dark and lushly detailed cinematography by M. David Mullen, using an HD camera. Here's a relatively low-budget film that looks and feels every bit as expensive as any blockbuster — let it be a lesson to indie filmmakers with digital cams in hand.
Fortunately, the DVD provides a lot of the back-story through the additional release material. There's a featurette on the script development, Mullen's cinematography, and a behind-the-scenes look at the cringe-inducting fetal-pig dissection scene.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson