Preview by: Jack Foley
"Teeth outlast everything. Death is nothing to a tooth.
Life is what destroys teeth."
SITTING through a movie entitled The Secret Life of Dentists
may seem as appealing as being forced to watch Dustin Hoffman's
Marathon Man torture sequence on repeat play for two hours; yet,
first impressions aside, this new US indie flick could well be
worth sinking your teeth into.
Starring Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary, and Robin Tunney,
the movie is the tale of a 'perfect couple' who reach a crossroads
in their relationship.
Shifting seamlessly from humor to drama, and back again, award-winning
director Alan Rudolph (Afterglow, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious
Circle) harnesses the rhythms and subtle interplays of family
life to explore the mysterious bond between husbands and wives,
and the secret yearnings in all of us.
Based on Jane Smiley's novella, The Age of Grief, Rudolph's
film tells the story of Dr Dave Hurst (Scott), who shares three
children, two homes, and a private practice with his dentist wife,
One evening, backstage at Dana's drama-club production, Dave
believes he witnesses his wife in an intimate exchange with another
Emotionally repressed by nature, Dave's jealousy flares up in
the form of a raucous alter-ego, personified by an unsatisfied
patient, Slater (Denis Leary).
Slater goads the quiet dentist toward violent action, but the
unraveling of the emotional bonds in Hurst's marriage is much
more of a challenge than the simple threat of aggression can solve.
The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to widespread
acclaim, while, according to the publicity at this year's Sundance
Film Festival, it is a movie that is 'illuminated by superb performances
by Scott and Davis', and is 'an insightful and completely human
portrait of a couple caught in the myriad of small subtle mistakes,
which two people make when they attempt to preserve love and passion,
while accepting the inevitable compromises and banality of marriage'.
Leary, himself, described the movie as a genuinely funny, quirky
experience, when he was recently in London to promote his latest
UK release, Double Whammy.
And the reaction from critics in America seems to suggest that
this will be well worth checking out when it opens next year.
Leading the way with this critical overview is the New York
Daily News, which wrote that 'it's a compassionate view of
marriage and its stressors. But the filmmaker and actors do their
jobs only too well. Watching Secret Lives can be as uncomfortable
as sitting in the dentist's chair'.
Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, awarded it the maximum
A rating, and described it as 'striking', and 'subtle'.
Village Voice stated that 'unlike the majority of movies
in which a thousand digital extras are sacrificed upon the altar
of commercial catharsis, The Secret Lives of Dentists gives the
impression of acknowledging the existence of garden-variety human
And the San Francisco Chronicle opined that 'the film
presents a realistic and artful treatment of a subject not often
dealt with in cinema - and rarely with honesty. Davis and Scott
respond with heartfelt, edgy performances'.
Reel.com referred to it as 'unforgettable', while the
New York Times felt that 'it's the adult tone that Mr.
Rudolph brings to the movie ... that makes this picture more than
a pile of nuked clichés'.
There were some negative notices, however, with the Hollywood
Reporter stating that 'neither the story nor the characters
exerts enough pull, and the fantasy bits are more annoying than
The New York Post, similarly, felt that 'lacking a solid
narrative beyond the worsening marital crisis, this humor-flecked
domestic drama ends up relying heavily on directorial tricks such
as splashes of magic realism, giving it a self-satisfied air that
quickly becomes grating'.
While the Chicago Sun-Times felt that 'The Secret Lives
of Dentists tries hard to be a good film, but if it had relaxed
a little, it might have been great'.
But the word was generally good, with Variety stating
that it is 'a nicely played study of turbulence beneath the surface
of quiet lives that eventually becomes bogged down by overplaying
a literary conceit'.
And USA Today wrote that it is 'an excellent adaptation
of a wonderful work of fiction that sheds light on the complexities
and emotional truths of married life'.
The last two words go to the Los Angeles Times and Rolling
The former wrote that the movie is 'a stylish work from an accomplished,
sophisticated filmmaker that bristles with intelligence and gleams
with Scott's and Davis' multifaceted, astutely judged portrayals',
while the latter concluded that 'Scott and Davis could not be
better. You're in for something special'.
And who said that going to the dentist couldn't be fun?