Novocaine

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Elias Koteas, Scott Caan

Director: David Atkins

This strange little film will delight some and baffle others. Those it will delight are the fans of Steve Martin who really enjoy watching him get his teeth into a role (pun intended) and show us his range, as he has done successfully on several occasions (ROXANNE, THE SPANISH PRISONER and LA STORY). Those it will baffle will be those expecting a comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very funny scenes and light touches in this film, but the overall feeling you come away with from this film is feeling sorry for the characters.

Martin plays Frank Sangster, whose well-ordered existence is thrown into turmoil when a new patient arrives at his practice. She obviously senses that Frank finds her attractive, even though his girlfriend Jean (an excellent Laura Dern) is his assistant and constant companion. What starts off with a simple prescription of painkillers for this wacky new patient leads Frank into the underbelly of American drug trafficking, incest and murder. Not your average Steve Martin film then.

The movie works best when Martin is on screen. He is a very versatile actor and should be given more dark and sinister roles such as this, an average man for whom the American dream has gone sour, but who finally realises, through the events that unfold, that it wasn’t the American dream he was after all along. It was to follow his own dreams, not lead the life he thought was perfect. He only comes alive when in danger and thrives off adversity. We follow Frank up against the police and drug dealers as he spends 80% of the movie on the run from many parties in his own search for the one party that has landed him in this mess, the hustler and drug offender Ivey (Bonham Carter). This is where the movie doesn’t work.

I really do struggle when taking Bonham Carter seriously in any role, but that of an American tart with a heart is really pushing it. She looks the part, don’t get me wrong, but I really think she is one of the most irritating actresses on the big screen. I’m afraid I really don’t like her style and find any role she has taken after THE WINGS OF THE DOVE irritating. That could be horribly presumptuous of me, but she really was perfect acting a monkey in PLANET OF THE APES. Even under all that make-up I found her annoying. Sorry, I’ll stop there, but as she played a major character in this film her performance really affected my enjoyment and belief in the overall movie itself.

This is still an enjoyable if miscast film. You are left with an overall feeling of, ‘well, that was different’, but not necessarily ‘well, that was good’.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: NOVOCAINE. It does exactly that. Any feeling you may have for the characters slowly drains away, but it’s better than a kick in the teeth.

3 out of 6 stars

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