A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005
Steve Martin gave one of the most memorable performances of his career in the role of dentist in 1986 version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Fifteen years later Martin again played member of that profession in NOVOCAINE, 2001 black comedy written and directed by David Atkins.
Martin plays the film’s protagonist, Dr. Frank Sangster, dentist who lives in Chicago suburb and has everything he can dream of – successful practice, plenty of money and beautiful assistant Jean Noble (played by Laura Dern) with whom he is about to marry. His perfect life starts to unravel with the surprise visit of his drug abusing brother Harlan (played by Elias Koteas), but the real problems come with the new and attractive patient Susan Ivey (played by Helena Bonham Carter). Although experienced enough to realise that the dental problems aren’t her primary motive for her arrival, he nevertheless decides to help her with painkillers and later has opportunity to realise some of his sex favourite fantasies with her. But his brief moment of bliss is followed with the escalating series of problems – mysterious disappearance of his drug supply, DEA investigation and murder.
Originality of NOVOCAINE isn’t in the plot, which is borrowed from the hundreds of film noir classics, but in the attitude with which Atkins treats his story. Characters and actions that could have been revolting in a serious film are here acceptable due to the ironic distance of Atkins’ script. As a comedy, NOVOCAINE isn’t particularly funny, but it is entertaining enough to arouse imagination of post-Tarantino audience. Atkins keeps the film interesting by throwing some unusual characters in the plot – one example is television actor (played by Kevin Bacon) who follows police investigation in order to prepare for the role. This quirkiness, however, doesn’t always work. Just after the ingenious plot resolution, Atkins presents audience with the epilogue which is both artificial and predictable. But in the end viewers are nevertheless going to be satisfied. NOVOCAINE features some fine acting, especially in the case of Martin, and Atkins’ direction is more than adequate for this sort of film. And because of that NOVOCAINE deserves recommendation.
RATING: 6/10 (++)
Review written on March 17th 2005