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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 Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Dentistry is a metaphor here - and it's an effective one for Alan Rudolph's musings on marriage and human relationships. Dr. Dave Hurst (Campbell Scott) not only practices dentistry with Dr. Dana (Hope Davis) but, as husband-and-wife, they've built a seemingly perfect life, complete with three beautiful daughters and a weekend home in the country. But, as people, they're quite different. Aside from his professional lament, "Your best work never sees the light of day," Dave's dull but content. Dana's not. An amateur soprano, she's passionately involved in a local production of a Verdi opera, and Dave suspects she's having an affair. Rather than confront Dana with the root of his distrust, Dave hallucinates. His emotional repression triggers fantasized conversations with his most cantankerous patient (Denis Leary), an irate trumpet-player with a toothache. And, in the midst of this emotional angst, the entire family is felled by stomach flu.

Idiosyncratic writer/director Alan Rudolph ("Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle"), known for his fortuitous casting, concentrates on observing the complexities and paradoxes of domestic drama, particularly the symptoms of stagnation and marital despair. Less effective is Craig Lucas's structured screenplay, adapted from Jane Smiley's novella, "The Age of Grief."

Credit the actors for rising above decay like "Life is what destroys a tooth"...and a marriage. Campbell Scott (son of George C.) delivers a superbly nuanced performance, good enough to rival last year's "Roger Dodger," and soulful Hope Davis radiates a dreamy desperation. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Secret Lives of Dentists" is a sensitive, compassionate 7. Like a visit to the dentist, it's ultimately beneficial, but that doesn't mean it's easy to endure.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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