Secret Lives of Dentists
Reviewed by Dennis Morton
"The Secret Lives Of Dentists" is a suggestive title.
Just a mention of the word secret can kick start
the imagination. But Director Alan Rudolph has a way of working
against expectations in his latest film.
In some ways this movie reminded me of Stanley Kubricks
final work, "Eyes Wide Shut". In Kubricks movie,
the lead character, (also a doctor), believes that his wife
has had an affair. Solely on the basis of his wild imaginings
he sets off on a self-destructive jaunt into the dark night
of the city. Hes lucky to make it out alive.
But as Rudlphs movie unfolds, it becomes apparent that
"The Secret Lives Of Dentists" is more about survival
than self-destruction. Rudolphs movie turns out to be
an emotionally accurate celebration of the quotidian.
The dentists in "Secret Lives
" are a married
couple, each with a practice. They have three young daughters.
Dr. Dave and Dr. Dana work together, sleep together, and try
to play together, at least most of the time. But out of a yearning
for something more than the plu-perfect middle class life, Dana
becomes involved in a community opera troupe. Soon, husband
Dave imagines that more is going on with Dana than a bit role
in the operas chorus.
Theres not a lot of plot in "Secret Lives
Much of the action, such as it is, takes place in the dentists
large suburban home. Dr. Dave, played by Campbell Scott, spends
a lot of screen time tending to the needs of his three young
daughters. These scenes amazed me for their uncanny accuracy.
The relationships between daughter and father are so apparently
real that I wouldnt have been surprised to have discovered
in the credits that these were Mr. Scotts children. But
theyre not. Great credit goes to the young actors, the
casting director, Campbell Scott, and of course, to Alan Rudolph
for the exceptional verisimilitude.
Hope Davis, as Dr. Dana, has less screen time and much less
dialogue than Scott, but her portrait of a conflicted wife and
mother is a strong one. In a memorable scene she arrives home
late one night in a taxi. She doesnt know that her husband
is watching from a secluded place in the yard. She hesitates
at the front door before entering. In a subtle, silent shrug
before opening the door Davis says more than most actors can
say with words. Even in her absence, she is as present as Scott,
which is to take nothing at all from his fine performance.
"The Secret Lives Of Dentists" is leavened by Denis
Learys performance as a ubiquitous specter haunting the
thoughts of Dr. Dave. Learys character, Slater, is short
on tact and long on gauche. He enters the story as a disgruntled
patient, identifying himself as a trumpet player abandoned by
an ungrateful wife. But we come to know him more as a blowhard
than as a musician. Learys timing is impeccable and serves
as welcome relief from the artful tedium of Dr. Daves
"The Secret Lives Of Dentists" is not the movie I
expected to see. Its much better.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.