Toronto Film Festival--"The Quiet"
So, I'm doodling at a restaurant table one evening last week, and Martin Donovan walks by all suited and booted. Now, I'm not a big celebrity watcher (or even a small one) but my antennae perk right up because I'm a big fan of the films he made with Hal Hartley. So I quickly check the schedule and sure enough, he's in an obscure little teen movie called The Quiet. I pull out my wad of tickets and decide to pass on Takeshi Kitano's ill-reviewed doppelwanker movie.
The Quiet turns out to be a wonderfully tart surprise. In addition to Donovan it stars Edie Falco and Elisha Cuthbert (both pitch-perfect), and is a suburban psychodrama with an eerie, hushed mood. A teenage girl (Camilla Belle) who has been rendered deaf-mute by the trauma of losing her parents comes to live with her godparents and their troubled daughter (Cuthbert) in a moneyed suburb. Rather than assuming, like so many suburban satires, an easy pose of glibness, the movie instead aims for atmosphere and disorientation. This has the curious effect of making suburban life seem unfamiliar and almost subterranean.
Much of the film is shot at night, blue light streaking across bedrooms through slashes of venetian blinds. The soundtrack feels like it was recorded under the ocean, perfectly simulating a foggy world devoid of hearing. All these touches add up to a creepily subjective view of what it might mean to be a damaged, disabled suburban teen living in a household where she might be the healthiest, sanest one.
When the film ends, and I am trying to imagine the admirably askew mind behind it, director Jamie Babbit steps up to the microphone to take questions. She is unpretentiously clad in rumpled T-shirt and hip-hugging jeans, cradling and cooing to a baby in her arms while she addresses the audience's bewildered questions. She seems, outwardly anyway, as normal as her movie is not.