Novocaine [2001]

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Novocaine A screwball noir comedy that marks a promising directorial debut by first-timer David Atkins, Novocaine has a knack for the offbeat, beginning with the casting of Steve Martin as Frank, a dentist who traps himself in an escalating series of secrets and lies. Frank likens his dilemma to the insidious rot of tooth decay, personified by quirky drug addict Susan (Helena Bonham Carter), who enters his office, steals his narcotics, and draws him into an unexpected flirtation with disaster. Frank's brother (Elias Koteas) complicates matters almost as much as Susan's psycho brother (Scott Caan), but it's Frank's fiancée and hygienist (Laura Dern) who shotguns the movie to its outrageous and gruesomely off-putting conclusion. Erratic in tone and briefly amusing, Novocaine offers a few surprises (including an unbilled appearance by Kevin Bacon), but the movie never really finds its groove, and its curiously numbing effect makes the title just a bit too apropos. --Jeff Shannon L.A. Story Steve Martin wrote this film as a meditation on both love and Los Angeles (and then-wife Victoria Tennant). He plays a L.A. TV weatherman who finds himself conflicted about what to do with his life, both professionally and personally. As he works his way through a couple of relationships (including a very funny one with a frisky Sarah Jessica Parker, who talks him into colonic therapy), he discovers a L.A. freeway sign that gives him romantic advice. It helps him realize what he knows intuitively: that the British woman he is attracted to (Tennant) is the one he should pursue. A big cast (and lots of cameos) have fun with this witty (if slight) material and director Mick Jackson adds visual pizzazz. --Marshall Fine

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