Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
They met in dental school, where he was awed by her brilliance, and now they share a practice and a family. Their three daughters are a handful, especially the little one, who is going through a phase of preferring daddy to mommy, but slaps daddy whenever she gets the chance. They are happy, apparently, but something strange is going on under the surface of this marriage, and one day David accidentally glimpses his wife sharing a tender and loving moment with another man.
What should he do then? Alan Rudolph's "The Secret Lives of Dentists" is about a quiet, inward man. David (Campbell Scott) is a good father and certainly loves his wife, but when Dana (Hope Davis) tries to talk to him he seems to be asleep. She says she wishes they were closer: "You scare me a little." And yet what about her affair? For the time being, David determines to say nothing and do nothing, and hope that, whatever it is, it plays itself out and Dana comes back to him--to them.
David has the kind of patient a dentist must dread: A cocky wiseass named Slater (Denis Leary) who masks his fear with hostility, hates dentists, is keeping an appointment made by his ex-wife. David fills a cavity, only to be confronted at the community opera by Slater, who holds up a filling that dropped out and informs the audience that David is a lousy dentist. This is on the same night he saw his wife with the strange man. Not a good night.
The story advances through a mixture of everyday realism and fantasy. We get a deep, real, convincing portrait of a family going through a period of crisis (the family doctor insists on diagnosing all of the children's illnesses as emotional reactions to tension between the parents). We see meals served, fights stopped, love expressed, weekends planned. At the same time, Slater begins to turn up in David's mind as an imaginary guest, and we see him, too--standing in the kitchen, offering free advice in the dining room, even sliding out from under the bed.