The Secret Lives of Dentists Movie Review

Can vomit be nominated Best Supporting Actor? Best Supporting Actress? Is puke gendered? Regardless, the stuff plays an essential role in The Secret Lives of Dentists. David Hurst (Campbell Scott) is emotionally sick with paranoia about whether his wife and fellow dentist Dana (Hope Davis) is having an affair. And then, he's quite literally sick, laid low with a case of the flu that spreads to Dana and his three young daughters over the course of five wearying, nauseous days. The stress and fear that takes hold of David in that time makes for the best movie about marital strife this side of American Beauty. However much director Alan Rudolph budgeted for creamed corn, it was worth every penny.

Dentists (adapted from Jane Smiley's novel The Age of Grief) opens with a brisk, gorgeously rendered sequence where David spies Dana being caressed lovingly by an unknown gentleman before she takes the stage in a small-town production of the opera Nabucco. As Verdi blares, David's mind swims. We rush through their romance in grainy flashbacks: Falling in love in dental school, starting a practice together, raising three daughters, and buying a weekend cabin in upstate New York. Scott, who's an expert at roles where he plays the well-meaning victim of circumstance, is excellent here. Subtly, he captures the way that wronged, anti-social people speak: Speaking a bit too loud to Dana, you can feel him studying her for evidence of sin. His eyes - and the camera - study her legs and the hem of her skirt, wondering what her sexual needs might be.

But for all its turmoil, Dentists is mainly comedy. As David sinks deeper into Walter Mitty-styled fantasies, he's tailed by his goading conscience, which takes the form of Denis Leary. We meet Leary first as an angered patient - David botched his filling - but soon he's sitting in the passenger seat of David's SUV, worming ideas into his head. Leary's perfect for the part: His chain-smoking, tough-talking persona is usually grating, but here he's supposed to grate. He encourages David to ditch the wife, go on the road, chuck it all, leave the kids. When his daughters act up in the living room, he tells David, "These kids ought to be struck." Beat. "May I hit them?" Sickened and tired, David has to think for a moment before he says no.

American Beauty depicted marital strife in a cynical, postmodern fashion; we were all supposed to have a good laugh at the pathetic suburbanites. Dentists is made of braver stuff: It wants us to look hard at what it means when a man cooks breakfast for his wife passive-aggressively, when he's swallowed by his own fears. We're having a good laugh at the absurdity of David's fantasies, sure - Dana in a kinky threesome, his dental assistant wooing him by singing "Fever" in a cocktail dress, sitting in his car as his children mock his cuckolded state. Yet those fantasies aren't just jokes - the build David's character. And everyone else's as well.

Alan Rudolph, who after a brief flirtation with the A-list in the '80s had become a mere journeyman director, has made one of his best films here. A caustic, witty study of love and sex, it illuminates how easily a single stray thought can destroy the charms of both.

The DVD of the film includes thoughtful commentary from Rudolph and the cast, plus a scant few random deleted scenes and bloopers.

Cast & Crew

Director :


Comments

The Secret Lives of Dentists Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2003

Editors Recommendations

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

The Cannes Film festival is sneaking up fast. The Oscars felt like they were 8 minutes ago...

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

Next weekend's CounterPoint Festival will be the event's first year at a new 5000-acre site, featuring...

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Superhero movies have been striving towards the almost unobtainable goal set...

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Ricky Gervais is "Hooked" on David Brent Again - Former Paper Merchant To Return

A return for David Brent has been mooted ever since the character was wheeled...

Ricky Gervais is

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing "Made In America" To Downtown Los Angeles

Jay Z and the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti have announced that the rapper’s...

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing

Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

The editor-in-chief of US VOGUE magazine is reportedly determined for the annual...

Anna Wintour - Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

The comedy classic 'Mrs. Doubtfire' is reportedly set to return to the big-screen...

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Of Mice And Men premiered on Broadway last night, giving critics a chance to cast...

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'

Sofia Vergara has been speaking about her nerves at shooting a ménage a trois with...

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'


More recommendations