Dir: Jamie Babbit. US. 2005. 91mins.

Put DesperateHousewives on a double dose of Benzedrine and you have a roughapproximation of Jamie Babbit's The Quiet, an overheated and lurid, if beautifully mounted,American indie melodrama that verges on guilty pleasureterritory for all the wrong reasons.

While Desperate Housewives, with its drooling tales of adultery andmurder, is considered risque by Bush-era standards, The Quiet brushes aside mere adulteryand murder to head for the grander arenas of incest, incipient teen lesbianismand strangulation by piano wire.

Once word gets out,commercial prospects are likely to be relegated to those who want to revel inits beautiful sickness.

The story begins innocentlyenough. Dot (Belle), a deaf teen whose surviving parent has just died, is takeninto the home of Olivia (Falco) and Paul (Donovan),two apparently upstanding American suburbanites.

Their cheerleader daughterNina (Cuthbert) is none too happy about being displaced from the centre offamily attention and makes Dot's life hell at school.

Audiences may easily beginto believe that a heart-warming tale of loving acceptance and triumph oversmall-mindedness is about to unfold. But TheQuiet turns out to be anything but.

Olivia is a complete drunkwho passes out after dinner every night; worse still, dad is sleeping withgorgeous daughter Nina while mom is comatose. And Nina's way-over-the-topcheerleader pal (who is so actively malevolent that, if she were a differentgender, she would be twisting her moustache) constantly makes come-on gesturesto her while sobbing "I'm not a dyke! I'm not a dyke!".

Meanwhile Dot's wannabeboyfriend recounts his multiple masturbatory sessions to her and frets aboutthe size of his penis, all under the illusion that she can't understand a wordhe's saying.

Everything is caricature,and it's difficult to tell whether it's a conscious decision or not. The highschool girls' clique is so vicious and nasty that you expect them to startfoaming at the mouth at any moment. The ubiquitous classical music (yes, thedeaf girl, a la Beethoven, plays the piano) is sometimes powerful, sometimestotally trashy and meretricious. The school seems suicidal after the loss of abasketball game. Troubled looks are exchanged and lips quiver. Falco has an embarrassing scene nude from the waist up. Oh,and it rains during the climactic moments at the end.

Family domestic scenesaround the dinner table also have little to do with any known reality and arealmost laughable. Possibly that was the point, but the way in which Nina isoccasionally both attracted to and repulsed by her father hints that originallyThe Quiet was meant to be taken moreseriously than it actually ends up. But it's a notion quickly quashed by theunintentionally laugh-out-loud dialogue that pervades the whole exercise.

Production companies
Burnt Orange Productions
Town Lake Films
Holly Wiersma Productions
Andrea Sperling Productions
Joel Michaely Productions

International sales
Voltage Pictures

Executive producer
Tom Schatz

Carolyn Pfeiffer
Andrea Sperling
Holly Wiersma
Joe Michaely

Abdi Nazemian
Micah Schraft

M David Mullen

Joan Sobel

Jeff Rona

Main cast
Elisha Cuthbert
Camilla Belle
Martin Donovan
Edie Falco
Shawn Ashmore