Although this movie is highly watchable as a story, it's the wonderfully loose and believable everyday business -- overworked parents, avoided topics at dinner, precocious children -- that really solidifies the film.
That most extraordinary of achievements, the small, quiet movie that imperceptibly takes its viewers by their throats and doesn't let go until its emotionally explosive -- and equally small and quiet -- final moments.
The filmmakers manage to jazz up Smiley's tempo without losing her melancholy tone; and they find a way -- without being untrue to the book -- to make the stubbornly recessive protagonist seem a dynamo on the screen.
Lacking a solid narrative beyond the worsening marital crisis, this humor-flecked domestic drama ends up relying heavily on directorial tricks such as splashes of magic realism, giving it a self-satisfied air that quickly becomes grating.
Unlike the majority of movies in which a thousand digital extras are sacrificed upon the altar of commercial catharsis, The Secret Lives of Dentists gives the impression of acknowledging the existence of garden-variety human suffering.