Movie Review for Teeth (2008)

Click Poster to Purchase

Review #609 of 365
Movie Review of Teeth (2008) [R] 88 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.50
Where Viewed: Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli, Denver, CO
When Seen: 30 January 2008
Time: 4:50 pm
DVD Release Date: 6 May 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Mitchell Lichtenstein (Resurrection)
Written by: Mitchell Lichtenstein (Resurrection)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Jess Weixler (The Big Bad Swim) • John Hensley (Fifty Pills) • Josh Pais (Find Me Guilty) • Hale Appleman (Beautiful Ohio) • Lenny von Dohlen (How's My Driving) • Vivienne Benesch (Paradise) • Ashley Springer (What Are the Odds? ) • Julia Garro (Gracie) • Nicole Swahn ("Friday Night Lights") • Adam Wagner (debut)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Click to see photos from the Premiere of Teeth
Click to read the spoiler points for Teeth
Now here's a shocking tale ripe with irony illustrating the chief and potentially fatal flaw of male kind. Mitchell Lichtenstein's Sundance 2007 favorite, Teeth, finally gets a limited USA release. Some who see it, may wish for it to stay as limited as possible for it is a gruesome story of female empowerment at the expense of males, albeit well-deserved in this case, dismemberment. Young Dawn, growing up in the shadow of two nuclear power plant water-cooling towers, has a childhood encounter with her stepbrother in their play pool that he would long remember. The two were showing off their privates out of view of their soon-to-be-shared parents, when soon-to-be step brother Brad decides to look with his hands and gets, well, bitten. Years later, when Dawn (Jess Weixler) is now a full-figured teenager who's made a promise to her purity and leads her high school chastity until marriage group with the fervency only the purist of Puritans would fully appreciate, she will find herself endowed with a special level of protection from males most frightful and uncommon. It all begins when a new boy moves to town. He's terribly tall with impossibly dreamy hair, and a sense of sophistication not found among the boys she's grown up with in this small Texas town. Even his name, Tobey (Hale Appleman), is irresistibly cute. Oh, and yes, he too has made the "promise" and wears the ring to prove it. He will stay true to his virginity until marriage. Back at home, Dawn's mother is sick and dying of horrible cancer, and Brad (John Hensley) has grown up into a psycho, punk, goth, pierced, skanky, druggy dude who typifies the nightmare child of all parents all rolled into one. He abuses women, ignores his family, blasts loud violent music at all hours, contributes nothing, keeps a dog called "mother" in a cage in his bedroom, and continues to lust after his step-sister. Not to worry, he'll get what's coming to him soon enough.

Unfortunately for their mutual vows, Tobey and Dawn are drawn together, first to "promise" events and then to private events. Both know they are skating into dangerous territory, but the inexorable attraction between them can be stopped by nothing. She phones him and invites him to a park for some swimming. No teenage boy has ever driven so swiftly to a rendezvous in his life, and much to his utter surprise, she's in a swimsuit and hoping he'll join in a swim. They comment on how much they like each other's appearance outside of full chastity clothes which for Dawn usually includes a bedazzled t-shirt with an important vow of purity emblazoned on the front and for him a nerdy sweater designed to hide his lanky, yet deceptively appealing, figure. They swim around and into a cave discovered on previously chaperoned outing to the park where a switch flips in his brain and causes him to suddenly feel entitled to have intercourse with her. It's as if he's no longer himself, and his approach is controlling and nearly violent. Despite her refusals of his advances, he goes ahead and date rapes her, or, at least, he tries to before he pays the ultimate price. For, deep within Dawn's chaste loins lays a monster with a mind of its own.

… began with a 'great' idea and then got slightly lost by the end.
A set of teeth, referred to a vagina dentata that, well, extracts the ultimate price from the invading Tobey's amorous appendage. The look of unexpected horror on his face is one of that should be burned permanently into the back of the retina of every red-blooded male on the planet who would ever think of taking his way against the will of another person. Bearing now but half his manhood, he dives off the cliff and swims away to get help leaving the other half behind to be eaten by hungry crabs. So shocked by the incident, Dawn barely knows what to do. She's been horribly violated to be sure; but, at least, a more than proper punishment has been exacted. Still, she's overwhelmed by the loss of her chastity, confused by her feelings, and now all the more certain that she should have stayed true to her "promise". Eventually, events will be set in motion whereby she will become aware of the true potential of her 'gift' taking care of old as well as new grudges.

Teeth has been described at a "cautionary tale for men" as Mitchell Lichtenstein's story has endowed the heroine with the ultimate defense and control over her sexuality. On a larger scale, though, it serves as an interesting allegory of retribution against the power structures and paradigms that ensnare our culture and society today. The writing, and directing reveal a clearly talented and up and coming filmmaker in Mr. Lichtenstein who is still cutting his teeth in this medium after many years of acting. He affords his story the time it needs to unfold (a nicer way of saying the pacing could be a bit slow), never rushing toward the inevitable climax (a good way of inserting a useful pun). Which does also afford the opportunity to mention, if it's not been obvious, that this is a dark, dark comedy. Meanwhile, he has the ultimate respect for his female lead making her real and empowered. She's not just an HGH-enhanced, Tarantino, kung fu queen taking on masculine stereotypical traits and kicking some rear. Instead, she's a real person with vulnerabilities, needs, strengths, and sensibilities. Therefore, when she emerges with near superhero status, she's nearly as taken aback as those in awe of her unusual capability. The film hinges on the performance by Jess Weixler. She is more than up to the role, playing the character just as she needs to be played.

One weakness of the script were it to be as successful as possible is that it fails to show any other type of guy, really, than the 100% stereotypical misogynistic male who's only purpose is to conquer and penetrate women. In other words, there wasn't really even one good guy in the entire film. Likewise, the nature of the story, which puts male genitalia front and center as the usual scapegoat, then seemed to necessitate for Mr. Lichtenstein the opportunity to show the aftermath of each Dawn encounter in sometimes far too graphic detail. The point was gotten across the first time, and subsequent encounters could, therefore, have been left to the imagination rather than subjecting the audience to increasingly gruesome and bloody carnage. The point was made and made and made again, if one can sit through these scenes that in and of itself might serve as some sort of testament to something. Again, from an allegorical perspective, the film works on many levels despite an eventual sense that this story began with a 'great' idea and then got slightly lost by the end.

Send This Review To a Friend

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Teeth (2008)
Cast Members
Jess WeixlerJohn HensleyJosh Pais
Hale ApplemanLenny von DohlenVivienne Benesch
Ashley SpringerJulia GarroNicole Swahn
Adam Wagner
Mitchell Lichtenstein
Mitchell Lichtenstein
Review-lite Teeth (2008) [max of 150 words]
First time feature director, Mitchell Lichtenstein delivers a biting dark comedy that literally has as much bark as bite. A teenage girl discovers when her "chastity promised" boyfriend tries to take advantage of her that she has a little something special under the hood capable of extracting the ultimate price for his trespass. His horrified expression will sear into the retina of every red-blooded male on the planet as a reminder to the potential trauma associated with committing an unwelcome advance on another person. Leading actress Jess Weixler carries the film as she takes on her character's distinction and discovers the true colors of most of the men in her life. The film is off-balance in its approach to gender, that could have been remedied by the presence of just one good guy making it a more complete and praise-worthy film.

Send This Review To a Friend

No comments: