Directed by David Atkins
Written by Paul Felopulos
and David Atkins
A person can lose a lot of things. He can lose his job, he can lose his life. But I've always said that the worst thing a man can lose is his teeth. I should know.
This dark comedy is David Atkins' debut and stars Steve Martin as Dr. Frank Sangster, one of those men with seemingly perfect lives that are like a plate glass window waiting for a brick.
He is a successful practicing dentist, owning his own southern California dental practice. His fiancé, Jean Noble (played by Laura Dern), is blond, beautiful, and dedicated to being the best dental hygienist she can be. She is, like his life, just a little too perfect.
Can I ask you a professional question? Ever done it in the chair?
Frank's brick comes in the form of a gi-normous-eyed junkie named Susan Ivey, played by
Helena Bonham Carter who, you may all wish to know, does get nekkid in the film (a decision she's gone on record as regretting, but too late now). Susan enters the office complaining of a toothache, with the goal of scamming Demerol. Though he is "not that kind of doctor," he writes her a prescription for five Demerol. Susan, clever girl that she is, changes it from five to fifty, and Frank, when notified of it, still refuses to turn her in. The next evening Susan shows up for her root canal. Needless to say, something other than dentistry happened in the chair that night.
That night is what truly starts the trouble for Frank. All of the narcotics in his office are discovered missing the next day. Susan's psychotic junkie brother Duane (played by Scott Caan) shows up in the office, in a jealous rage over Frank's tryst with Susan. That evening, Duane is found dead, in Frank's home, and when Frank's bite marks are found all over the dead body, he becomes the prime suspect. The movie takes a lot of surprise twists, but I wouldn't want to spoil them all for you by detailing them here, so I'll just suffice to say that I'll bet the ending will make you cringe sympathetically.
An interesting thing to note about this movie is that several members of writer and director David Atkins' family are practicing dentists. To prepare for his role, Steve Martin spent time in their offices so as to convincingly imitate the maneuvers of an experienced dentist. “I think dentists are contemporary heroes,” explains Atkins. “They epitomize the American Dream. People are wary of dentists and tend to go out of their way to avoid them, and the dentists are aware of this. But instead of being bitter or mean-spirited, the dentists welcome them with open arms. Their only goal is to take away people’s pain."