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Saturday, August 30, 2003


Directed by Alan Rudolph
Written by Craig Lucas and Jane Smiley
Starring Campbell Scott, Robin Tunney, Denis Leary
Review by Mil Peliculas

Well, finally a non-pretentious, interesting, mature story from Alan Rudolph. This guy has been boring me for years, he rightly should be a member of the Bland Pack, but with his latest Secret Lives of Dentists, Rudolph as threatened to make a liar out of me.

Campbell Scott plays dentist David Hurst, who married his dental-school sweetheart Laura. Now the two have a nice practice together and three adorable daughters. The problem is that David seems to have lost the passion for his wife, we’re not sure how long ago, maybe years, but the problem has now manifested itself in the form of an extra-marital affair. Laura, it seems, is stepping out on him.

The film focuses less on the actual affair—we never even really know the name of the man she’s sleeping with, nor do we really see her with this other man—than it does on the mental torture that the spouse undergoes when the first suspicions arise. David actually sees his wife seemingly kissing and cuddling with a man from her theater group backstage at an Opera performance where she is performing a small role. This sets his mind to working. That faraway stare, replaying things in his mind over and over, reliving the moments when he first fell in love, weighing whether or not to tell her he knows—these are things that people can really relate to. To an immature person, the obvious thing is to tell her. But as David says, “Then we’d be forced to DO something about it.” The right way isn’t always apparent, especially in the area of love. That’s one of the nice complexities of the story.

The thing that really elevates the film is its well thought-out use of subtext. For you film freaks out there who like to delve a little further, there’s fodder for you. Denis Leary plays an angry patient who had some bad work done by David, and sort of becomes a symbol of David’s failure, appearing next to David as a mental projection to help him along through his difficult time. Also, the littlest daughter has of late taken to slapping the mother every time she gets too close to her, and she only wants to be with her father-- At one point “becoming part of my body,” as David says. I found this interesting, taking it to be a commentary on her mother’s loss of love for her father—as if the daughter was the piece of the mother that broke off and now must cling to the object of its affection, the father, while the mother herself goes out tries to reconnect with another man. I knew that if the daughter and mother were joined, things would be okay.

In the opening narration of the film, David describes the hardiness teeth, being a dentist, he would know. He says that nothing can harm teeth, for instance, they're the only thing left after a fire burns away the rest of the body, and that centuries of lying in the dirt merely gives them a good cleaning, etc. In fact, the only thing that can harm them is life. Life indeed has a way taking things that are strong and tearing away at them, destroying them. One of things that made me keep watching this film was: Will this affair destroy this marriage? I got my answer.

The dialog is smart, the humor is clever, and I found the story to be quite engaging throughout. For adult audiences (which now means over 30) you can’t go wrong with this one. Go. See. But pay attention to the details…