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The Secret Lives Of Dentists

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Secret Lives Of Dentists

Starring: Campbell Scott, Hope Davis
Director: Alan Rudolph
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: August 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Denis Leary, Robin Tunney, Gianna Beleno, Cassidy Hinkle, Lydia Jordan, Kevin Carroll

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"I wish my wife would love me," David Hurst (Campbell Scott) laments to Slater (Denis Leary) about his wife Dana (Hope Davis). "I wish she would look at me with desire rather than regret."

David and Dana are husband and wife dentists in Alan Rudolph's THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS. David suspects that Dana is cheating on him since she frequently sneaks off depressed on unnecessary outings only to return satisfied and happy. But the more he becomes convinced that she's being unfaithful, the less certain we are that his suspicions are on target.

The film is as much comedy as drama, thanks to a delightful performance by Leary as the world's worst dental patient. After harassing David in the office and in public, Slater starts appearing as David's imaginary, wise-cracking sidekick with lots of unappreciated and crudely delivered advice for him.

The sharply written script by Craig Lucas, based on Jane Smiley's novella "The Age of Grief," is filled with delicious irony and multiple meanings. When we first meet Dana, she is about to perform in the chorus of a local production of "Aida." Her part? She is one of the virgins. "I just can't believe it's all over!" she cries the next day to David. Although she is nominally speaking about the end of the opera, her words could equally well apply to her marriage or to a possible affair with the opera's conductor.

Their domestic life is full of grief for Dana since their three young girls have bonded completely with David and not at all with her. The youngest of the brood is a clingy brat who screams, "I want Daddy!" whenever Dana offers to help.

Even with its numerous fantasy sequences, the best part of the story is its firm foundation in reality. In most movies, when characters become ill, they invariably get something deadly like cancer. In THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS, the entire family comes down with the stomach flu, which takes its standard five days to work its way through every member. The sickness is yet one more metaphor in a metaphor-rich tale.

When the movie's mystery is finally revealed, don't be surprised if you don't care. The journey is the reward in THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS, not some shocking surprise.

THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS runs 1:45. It is rated R for "sexuality and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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