By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Who murdered the dentist?
Bruce Fleckstein (Joe Mantegna) is a successful dentist who puts new meaning to the term ‘bedside manner’ as he flirts with all of his female patients and has affairs with many of them. When he turns up murdered it becomes a question of which of the many suspects did it, which intrigues housewife Judith (Susan Sarandon) and propels her to start her own independent investigation much to the consternation of her husband Bob (Edward Herrmann) who thinks it’s too dangerous. As the clues accumulate so do the advances of police detective David (Raul Julia) that she is working with, which quickly puts her marriage into jeopardy.
The film was produced and directed by Frank Perry who made many influential films during the 60’s and 70’s with his screenwriter wife Eleanor, but after their divorce the quality of his films diminished considerably. The last two that he made were in collaboration with Susan Isaacs with this one based on her novel of the same name. To an extent it works as the mystery angle is realistic enough to be interesting and the dark humor keeps it mildly entertaining.
Sarandon’s presence helps a lot and without her it wouldn’t have worked. Julia plays against type and it’s fun seeing him in more of a subdued type of role. The real scene stealer though is Judith Ivey who has some funny sarcastic lines and should’ve been seen more.
I also really liked how Sarandon’s character remains faithful to her husband despite her conflicts with him and the many advances that she gets from the police detective. Too many Hollywood pictures give the impression that marriage should be one long blissful union and the minute one partner isn’t completely receptive to the needs of the other then that entitles the other to cheat on them. Herrmann’s character is a borderline jerk, but he has legitimate reasons for why he feels the way he does and the movie refreshingly even gives him a moment to vent and explain them. I also thought that Julia’s character comes onto Sarandon much too quickly and the way he barrages into her bedroom while making aggressive advances seemed almost creepy.
The story does have a dated quality. Fleckstein is found to be distributing and printing porn, the kind with consenting adults and not kids, which the film portrays as being a ‘shocking revelation’ even though these days with the proliferation of it all over the net it is nothing but an afterthought to most. I also thought the idea that this guy would have BDSM sex with a lot of married women and even take explicit pictures of them, but still turn around and throw them some lines that he ‘loved’ them and they would all fall for it was ridiculous and unfairly portrayed women as being too easily manipulated and unsophisticated.
The resolution is limp and the film lacks anything that would help make it distinctive or memorable. The humor gets lost by the second half and the Ivey character should’ve been given more screen time and possibly even used as Sarandon’s investigative partner as her caustic take on things are the best thing about it.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: August 30, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes
Director: Frank Perry