"Masked & Anonymous", here is another film
that 'could' have been great. This is a film with an
intelligent plot, strong performances, and some of the
most intense family drama since "American
Beauty". Had it only stuck to that format, it
would have been a four pop picture. Here is what
Campbell Scott and Hope Davis star as David and Dana
Hurst. They met in dental school, fell immediately
in love, and were married. Now, they share three
children and a dental practice. Everything seems
normal on the surface. Alas, David is despondent and
rarely, if ever, communicates his feelings to Dana.
Sometimes it is as if he is ignoring her when she speaks.
This leads, of course, to the inevitable affair.
David learns of the affair, but does nothing, because he
is afraid if having to do something. He hopes it
will all just go away. One day, a cranky patient
named Slater (Denis Leary) shows up and starts causing
problems for David (even going so far as to tell an entire
opera audience that David is a lousy dentist).
Eventually, David starts imagining Slater all throughout
his life -- in his head, of course. The
manifestations of the patient allow David to cope with the
problems he is facing at home. I will not reveal
The plot is strong. Unlike "Masked &
Anonymous", director Alan Rudolph knows exactly what
he wants to do and how he wants to do it. We see
David as a pitiful man, too afraid of what will happen to
his perfect life. As see Dana as alone, tired of
getting no response when she tries to talk to her husband.
In a way, it is David who causes Dana to have the affair.
The performances are top notch. Campbell Scott and
Hope Davis are fantastic as husband and wife, and I can
imagine no other actor than Denis Leary as Slater.
However, 'Slater' is where the film falters.
This film was near perfect as an intense family study.
We did not need the fantasies and the partial realities
creeping into the picture. The character of Slater
was fine as a supporting character, there to help Scott's
character cope with his problems, but when Slater starts
showing up in David's head, this starts to feel less like
"American Beauty" and more like "The
Rudolph is obviously a talented director and this film is
not bad -- it just could have been much better. It
seems like every film now is trying to go for that "A
Beautiful Mind" twist, but few can pull it off.
"The Secret Lives of Dentists" is a good film
about family relations, but would have been much better
had it stuck to that area.