Dull the pain

I like Steve Martin in this kind of role, one not all slapstick and purely good guy. In Novocaine, he plays a dentist who gets caught up with folks who want to take advantage of him, first by using him to get prescription drugs, and it escalates from there. The closest work I've seen from him to this was in The Spanish Prisoner, but there was still a bit of the Steve Martin veneer in his performance. Novocaine goes further, though I'd like to see more. His Dr. Frank Sangster is the straight, but flawed, everyman who gets trapped in a situation way beyond his control.

The plot of Novocaine is carefully measured, though the escalation of events is such a tired and familiar sequence of successive twists, I can't help but be put off a bit. I just have this feeling of "we're-trying-to-be-a-little-different" that sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't.

Martin is not alone - there's his girlfriend dental assistant Laura Dern, his troubled brother Elias Koteas, drug addict Helena Bonham Carter, and Scott Caan as her equally troubled brother. They do what they need to for this kind of film, though I don't really connect with the performances, aside from Carter's continued ability to portray borderline personalities.

There is a continued theme of seeing x-rayed images of people in the film, a way of saying that behind everyone lies a kind of dirty, gritty determination that isn't pretty to see. I have to say the film does very well to support that theme, but while this film is an above-average example of its genre, I feel like we've all seen this before.

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