Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

The Secret Lives of Dentists 2002

Directed by Alan Rudolph

USA In English
105 minutes 35mm



Campbell Scott
George VanBuskirk


Craig Lucas. Based on the novella The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley


Florian Ballhaus


Andy Keir


Gary DeMichele


Campbell Scott (David Hurst)
Hope Davis (Dana Hurst)
Dennis Leary (Slater)
Robin Tunney (Laura)
Gianna Beleno (Lizzie Hurst)
Cassidy Hinkle (Leah Hurst)
Lydia Jordan (Stephanie Hurst)
Jon Patrick Walker (Mark)
Kevin Carroll (Dr Danny)
Kate Clinton (Elaine)


Toronto 2002; Sundance, San Francisco 2003


The Secret Lives of Dentists is a fresh, ruefully funny celebration of marriage and child-rearing built on a shrewd comprehension of the compromises that marriage can entail. Campbell Scott and Hope Davis, ideally cast, play the Hursts, married dentists who operate a practice together. He’s rather buttoned up. She’s a much softer touch. But at home – and what a very nice home it is – he’s a great father to their three young daughters. The hook here, the ‘secret’, is that he suspects she’s having an affair, but he’s so committed to wedlock that he refuses to confront her about it. We watch as husband and wife skirt around his growing suspicion, while admitting in myriad indirect ways that there is a problem. (Denis Leary periodically disrupts the delicate suspense as Scott’s self-appointed anti-emasculation officer.) The film’s tour de force is a breathlessly extended sequence during which all five Hursts, one by one, go down with the stomach flu. Laugh though you may, it’s a truer, more potent assertion of family values than Hollywood ever dreamt of.