'The Quiet'

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The Quiet
Directed by Jamie Babbit
Sony Pictures Classics, opens August 25

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What if it's not cell phones, iPods, MySpace, and whatever that's keeping the teen demographic out of movie theaters? What if, instead, it's the movies' endless reduction of their complex, muddled, and—gasp—occasionally enjoyable lives to a bunch of recycled social-problem clichés? Directed by Jamie Babbit from a capable but glib screenplay by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft, this emotionally loaded melodrama turns on the lives of two adolescent girls (sharply played by Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle) at once divided and united by dark family secrets in common. Before you can say "Child Welfare Services," sexual abuse, pill popping, cruel peer groups, and (to gild the lily once and for all) physical disability rain down on these two unfortunates, with homicidal tendencies lurking in the wings. The Quiet has an excellent supporting cast in Edie Falco, Martin Donovan, and Katy Mixon, in a minor but more interesting role as the school vixen, and is competently, even lyrically, directed in high definition by Babbit (with input from students at the University of Texas). But thematically the movie never reaches beyond the ready-for-prime-time mentality that specializes in psychological shorthand.

 
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