Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002)

RATING: 7/10

Here's a film with some bite.


But viewers be warned. This 2002 effort from director Alan Rudolph (Songwriter, Breakfast of Champions) isn't your typical straightforward narrative.

Dentist David Hurst (Campbell Scott) regularly slips into some type of dream world, or alternate reality, as he ponders the likelihood his wife of 10 years, Dana (Hope Davis), is having an affair.

David isn't the most animated chap. Maybe that's why he gravitates to Slater (Denis Leary), a cranky musician who has had his fill of dentists, pardon the pun, and has just been shown the door by his wife.

THE STRAIGHT, UNVARNISHED TRUTH Slater doesn't sugercoat things. He calls out Hurst when he sees him at a concert. His filling, recently put in by Hurst, has fallen out. Slater's more than happy to highlight the failing to the well-heeled crowd.

That turns out to be a less-than-stellar night for Hurst. Before the concert, he spots Dana getting a little too close with a man whose face he can't see.

But Hurst is reluctant to confront Dana about what he saw. If the marriage ends, that means heading to the lawyer's office and hammering out child custody and other unpleasant details he'd rather avoid.

It's Slater who keeps showing up in Hurst's subconscious. The realist to Hurst's status quo stance? The one who'd like to do what Hurst fears?


The slow pace of The Secret Lives of Dentists may irk some. A good chunk of the final third of the film centres on illness hitting the Hursts and their three daughters.

Is it the flu or is everyone taking an ill turn because their bodies are reacting to the chill in relations between husband and wife? Dana noted earlier her world seems to have grown smaller since tying the knot. Spending five days throwing up in her house offers ample proof of this observation.

Much is made of the resiliency of teeth at the film's start. Can a marriage last as long?

FUN FACTS: Hope Davis made her film debut in Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland in 1990. She appeared as a ticket agent in Home Alone the same year.

The Hurst children are played by Gianna Beleno, Lydia Jordan and Cassidy Hinkle. The Secret Lives of Dentists was the only film role for Beleno besides two television credits. The drama marked the debuts of Jordan and Hinkle.

Alan Rudolph hasn't directed a film since The Secret Lives of Dentists.

Both Scott and Leary will appear in The Amazing Spider-Man.

The film is based on Jane Smiley's book.

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