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The Secret Lives Of Dentists
cast: Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary, and Robin Tunney

director: Alan Rudolph

100 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
David Hurst (Campbell Scott) met Dana (Hope Davis) when they were both dental students. Now married with three daughters, they have a joint practice. Dana belongs to an amateur operatic company, and one day, after David has seen her in a performance of Nabucco, he catches sight of her kissing another man...

Many films are based on novels, and the usual difficulty with adaptation is that you cannot fit all of even an average-length work into two hours or so of film. It's less often that films are based on short fiction, but the advantage there is that you can fill in and embellish what's there: a good example is Brokeback Mountain, from a short story by Annie Proulx, which is in British cinemas as I write this. Jane Smiley's The Age Of Grief, on which The Secret Lives Of Dentists is based, is a longer work, a novella of (I estimate) around 26,000 words. Craig Lucas' adaptation is very faithful to the source, though inevitably finding some cinematic equivalents to Smiley's very internalised first-person narrative. For this is very much a 'mini-plot', a film where the conflict takes place inside its main character's head, as he wonders whether or not to confront his wife about her apparent infidelity and how to save his marriage. Many of the 'events' of the story are small-scale and domestic, with one major crisis late on as flu strikes the Hurst family one after another. In addition, an obstreperous patient (Denis Leary) becomes David's imaginary confidant and advisor.

Alan Rudolph's best films create a mood, particularly of romance, through lighting, dialogue and music. The Secret Lives Of Dentists is more conventional than most of his films, despite a few offbeat touches - not all of which work. There's little to complain about the acting, in particular from Scott and Davis and the film is generally well paced, though the final half-hour is drawn out too long.

Tartan's DVD has an anamorphic transfer with soundtrack options of Dolby digital and DTS 5.1 and Dolby surround. Extras: the trailer, deleted scenes, a gag reel and trailers for other Tartan releases.

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