A Movie A Day #274: The Dentist (1996, directed by Brian Yuzna)


Alan (Corbin Bernsen) may be a wealthy dentist in Malibu but he still has problems.  He has got an IRS agent (Earl Boen) breathing down his neck.  His assistant, Jessica (Molly Hagan), has no respect for him.  His demanding patients don’t take care of their teeth.  His wife (Linda Hoffman) is fucking the pool guy (Michael Stadvec).  When Alan feels up a beauty queen while she’s passed out from the nitrous oxide, her manager (Mark “yes, the Hulk” Ruffalo) punches him and then goes to the police.  Under pressure from all sides, Alan loses his mind and a crazy dentist with a drill means a lot of missing teeth.

“You’re a rabid anti-dentite!” Kramer once yelled at Jerry Seinfeld and even people who were not already uneasy about going to dentist will be after watching Corbin Bernsen stick his drill in Earl Boen’s mouth.  The scene where Alan tells a group of dental students to yank out their patients’ teeth represents everyone’s worst fear of what dentists talk about when there aren’t any innocent bystanders around.  The Dentist may be predictable but Corbin Bernsen gives the performance of his career, playing the nightmare of anyone who has ever had a toothache.

Of course, good health begins with healthy teeth and real-life dentists provide a valuable service.  Take it from Robert Wagner:

Film Review: Wild (dir by Jean-Marc Vallee)


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Wild opens with Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) standing on the edge of a cliff.  She has been hiking for days and, because her hiking boots are too small, she’s limping and in a great  deal of pain.  She takes off a boot and a sock and stares at her bloody big toe.  With trembling fingers, she removes what is left of her big toenail.  And then, she throws her boot over the edge of the cliff while screaming, “FUCK YOU!”

And, from that moment, Wild had me.

For the next two hours, I sat there and I was absolutely enthralled as Cheryl, an aspiring writer and a recovering drug addict who was still struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother (played, in heart-breaking flashbacks, by Laura Dern), hiked her way from the Mexican border up to the Canadian border.  I watched as she learned how to survive in the wilderness, how she cautiously learned to trust some of her fellow hikers, and as she dealt with sexist rangers and creepy hunters.

And there were a lot of reasons why Wild held me so enthralled.  There was Reese Witherspoon’s performance, for one thing.  Reese is on screen during every minute of Wild and, for a lot of that time, she’s alone with her thoughts and her emotions.  She gives an amazingly focused performance, one that should regain her some of the respect that she sacrificed by appearing in movies like This Means War and publicly asking, “Do you know who I am?”  Both the film and Reese’s performance resist the temptation to idealize Cheryl.  Instead, both the film and the performance feel real and because Cheryl comes across as a real person (flaws and all), it makes her journey and her achievement all the more powerful.

I couldn’t help but relate to Cheryl.  Like her, I’m an aspiring writer.  Like her, I’m still learning how to deal with the loss of my mom.  Like her, I have trust issues.  Like her, I am sometimes too stubborn for my own good.  Like her, I like to leave quotes in guest books.  Like her, I always pack a few paperbacks before I go on a trip and I like to write in my journal.  Like Cheryl, I’m a survivor and I’m proud of it.

Unlike Cheryl, however, I’ve never gone hiking and I doubt if I ever will.  As much as I loved Wild (and it’s definitely one of my favorite films of 2014), it didn’t leave me with any great desire to go on a hike.  That’s largely because of that first scene.  When Cheryl threw away her boots and screamed, I thought to myself, “That would so be me.”  Of course, the difference is that Cheryl did that after hiking for a month.  I would probably end up doing that after the 2nd day.  And then I’d turn around, go back home, and spend the weekend watching Netflix.

But here’s the thing: Wild is not really about hiking.  Wild is about the journey.  What’s important is not that Cheryl hiked but that Cheryl accomplished what she set out to do.  No matter how difficult it got, no matter how many people told her she should give up, Cheryl walked from Mexico to Canada.  By the end of the film, I felt like, if Cheryl could do that even with boots that were too small, than there was nothing that I could not do.

As a result, Wild is not only one of the best films of 2014.

It’s the most empowering as well.