The Secret Lives of Dentists

Dentist David Hurst (Campbell Scott) rushes backstage at a local theater to give his dentist wife Dana (Hope Davis) — the mother of their three children — something she's forgotten. She's rehearsing an opera with an amateur group. David sees her as the camera does, through a partially opened door. She is talking to a man, we don't know who, with his back to us. But her face glows with sensuality and longing. At that moment, David's life unravels.

It's a great quicksilver scene — comic, passionate and devastating — one of many in this remarkable film. Working from the pungent script Craig Lucas has crafted from Jane Smiley's novel The Age of Grief, Alan Rudolph (Choose Me) does his best work in years. Is Dana really having an affair? Are David's imaginary conversations with a woman-bashing patient (Denis Leary at his feistiest) a prelude to his own violence? The film handles the hard realities of family life — the scene when all the Hursts get the flu is nightmarish farce — without losing its shimmering mystery. Scott and Davis could not be better. You're in for something special.

From The Archives Issue 449: June 6, 1985