Oral Fixation (2009)

US / 80 minutes / color / Red Line, Fixation, Vanguard Dir & Scr: Jake Cashill Pr: Matthew J. Pellowski, Billy Mulligan Cine: Neil Stephens Cast: Emily Parker, Kerry Aissa, Aidan Sullivan, Chris Kies, Tempany Deckert, Logan Kulick, Jody Ebert, Dexter Brown, Elena McGhee, James Andrew O’Connor, Steve Carre, Brian Anthony Wilson, Allison Carter Thomas, Michael Donovan.

Oral Fixation 0a 1st opener

Oral Fixation 0b 2nd opener

This indie movie builds up in its early stages to be a black comedy; then it trends towards being a psychological thriller. By its end I wasn’t entirely certain into what genre it fell, but wasn’t too concerned.

Patient Rachel Marks (Parker) is obsessed by New Jersey dentist Paul McNeil (Aissa), and believes he is equally obsessed by her, despite the fact that he has a red-hot, highly intelligent wife, successful Assistant DA Molly “Moll” McNeil (Sullivan), and their cute toddler Sean (Kulick). On the other hand, Paul has been unfaithful to Moll before, so it’s not altogether impossible that Rachel’s dreams of a passionate affair might come true.

Oral Fixation 3 Don and Paul on the job

Don (Jody Ebert) and Paul (Kerry Aissa) are New Jersey dentists. That means they’re respectable, right?

Moll’s sister Clare (Deckert)—who’s the receptionist at the dental practice—and Paul’s business partner Don Glowski (Ebert) suspect there’s something going on, because Rachel is making multiple appointments simply to have her teeth cleaned. Somehow she’s got hold of the McNeils’ home phone number, and Moll’s only half-convinced that it wasn’t Paul who gave it to her. When she phones him at home with a “dental emergency”—in fact, she’s pried out one of her own molars with a chisel in a sequence that’s not for the faint of heart—Paul promises Moll that, after he’s dealt with the dental issue, he’ll tell Rachel never to darken the surgery’s door again.

Oral Fixation 1 Rachel stalks the McNeil house

Rachel (Emily Parker) stalks the McNeil house.

Clare and Don are still suspicious the next morning when Rachel arrives. Soon after, they find Rachel half-naked in Paul’s surgery and naturally conclude the worst, despite Paul’s (truthful) explanation that the woman simply stripped off her top and jumped him. The venomous Clare, who has never forgiven Paul for that earlier betrayal of her sister, is especially eager to believe him guilty.

Oral Fixation 2 Moll is unconvinced of Paul's innocence

Moll (Aidan Sullivan) is far too ready to be convinced of Paul’s guilt.

When Moll accuses Paul of being a willing participant in the incident, he storms out of the house and goes to a nearby bar, little knowing that Rachel will follow him there. Rachel engineers that they appear to be in each other’s arms just as Moll arrives to fetch him home.

Moll’s on the point of throwing Paul out when there arrives at their home a man we’ve glimpsed briefly before. He claims to be a PI called Linford Crouch (Kies) who’s on the trail of a psychopath named Laura Tedeski—who is, of course, the woman we’ve so far known as Rachel Marks. Paul looks very much like a Denver physician called Bruce Anderson, who—along with his wife and four-year-old daughter—was murdered three years ago. Anderson’s brother David was convicted of the murder. Crouch was hired to prove David innocent by tracking down the real killer, whom he now knows to be Laura.

Oral Fixation 4 Linford-David

Linford Crouch (Chris Kies) arrives to overturn the McNeil applecart.

Linford also offers an explanation for Laura/Rachel’s psychopathy. She was the daughter of maverick psychiatrist Albert Tedeski, another Paul lookalike, who was jailed for the illegal experiments he carried out on his daughter Laura. He switched Laura’s pain and pleasure responses (here the scientific explanation gets a bit, er, blurred!); we’ve already seen indications of her apparent masochism, and now we understand that, for example, when we thought she was grunting with pain as she carved that tooth out, she was in fact grunting in ecstasy.

This makes us speculate what her reaction might be if she ever did manage to bed Paul. Would her brain interpret the pleasure of sex as agony? Later on, when she gets her inevitable comeuppance, she doesn’t seem to be deriving any pleasure out of being beaten over the head with a golf club.

Laura/Rachel’s next stunt is to go to the cops accusing Paul of rape, a claim she can substantiate thanks to the contents of a used condom she purloined after spying on the McNeils making love. (More scientific blur. Even though she’s kept the loaded condom in the fridge, the sperms would be long dead by the time she claimed them as products of a rape, as the forensics folk would surely recognize immediately.)

Meanwhile Moll has discovered on the internet that “Linford Crouch” is actually David Anderson, who has escaped from prison. Moll—who throughout behaves with extraordinary stupidity for a high-flying lawyer—is immediately convinced that David/Linford is the killer, despite all the evidence she’s heard and witnessed. Soon she’s completely convinced, too, that the jailed Paul really did have an affair with Laura/Rachel, whether or not he actually raped her. When Clare is murdered and little Sean disappears, Moll is certain David/Linford is the culprit . . . although really it’s all Paul’s fault!

Oral Fixation 5 Moll finds Clare's body

How Moll finds Clare (Tempany Deckert).

There’s a neat little sequence around here where we get to see what all the principals are up to: Moll is resting miserably on Sean’s bed, Paul is futilely testing the bars of his cell, David/Linford is trying to make sense of the documentation he’s collected during his hunt for Laura/Rachel, and Laura/Rachel is singing “The Cradle Will Rock” on her couch to the abducted toddler. Although in summary the sequence seems trite, it’s nicely handled—as, indeed, is the use of false color in the opening stages of the movie to indicate Rachel’s wish-fulfillment dreams of passionate romance with Paul.

Oral Fixation 7 Sean unconvinced Laura should be new mom

Sean (Logan Kulick) is unconvinced Laura should be his new mom.

As we’ve seen, the plot is to a great extent enabled by Moll coming to stupid wrong conclusions. Early on, there’s some justification offered for this—she suspects Paul of the improbable affair because she knows he’s cheated before—but any time after the arrival on the scene of David/Linford her behavior just seems perverse. Plots that rely on people doing stupid things are not generally very convincing, and the same is true here. Much of the potential for suspense is squandered because really we just want to shout at Moll that she should stop being such an idiot.

Oral Fixation 6 Moll berates Paul in jail

Moll (Aidan Sullivan) berates Paul in jail, because, hey, why the hell isn’t he out looking for their daughter?

There are other, smaller-scale plotting errors. One minute Paul is discovering that the phone number Laura/Rachel left at the surgery was bogus; the next he’s phoning her. After Sean has just witnessed his beloved aunt being viciously murdered, he seems quite content in the company of her murderer. David/Linford, given the vague information just that Laura/Rachel might live “somewhere in the 200s” on South Avenue, is next seen creeping around the correct house with his gun drawn.

Oral Fixation x use of false color (Don and Clare)

There are some clever uses of false color to portray Rachel’s fantasies. (See here are Don [Jody Ebert] and Clare [Tempany Deckert])

Clearly there are parallels between this movie and the various “infidelity noirs” that did good box office during the 1980s and 1990s, of which FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) is the type example—indeed, Oral Fixation might be seen to contain a reference to that piece in Moll’s final order to David/Linford: “Kill that bitch!” At the screen tests of Fatal Attraction, audiences famously shouted almost exactly that phrase, and the ending was reshot accordingly. To be fair, one could argue that Oral Fixation is merely following those earlier templates in having a plot that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a stretch. Where the movie scores, though, is in its cinematography, in its soundtrack (by Andrew Munro) and in the use of that soundtrack at important moments, and in some of its performances, with Kies being impressive and Sullivan succeeding brilliantly in the Herculean task of making an impossible part seem at least superficially credible.

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I found this on Snag Movies, but it seems now to have been withdrawn.

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9 thoughts on “Oral Fixation (2009)

    • Many thanks for dropping by.

      Indie movies deserve more attention.

      I couldn’t agree more, although I’d not say that this is among the most deserving of the ones I’ve covered here. I found that, just thinking off the cuff, Dreaming for You, which I covered a few weeks ago, and Anni, which I covered last year, were more interesting. Shattered comes to mind as another indie that I’ve covered here that I’ve enjoyed more than somewhat.

      I’m actually at the moment (just taking a quick break!) watching a very interesting Indian indie called The Impossible Crime. My writeup will be appearing here in a few weeks’ time.

  1. Well, this particular inde never crossed my path, though I see plenty of them year after year, included the very fine one SHATTERED you mention above. In any case, you have again written superbly, captivating from start to finish. But yes, you make it clear enough that it is problematic.

  2. Pingback: ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Listen to Me Marlon’ on Monday Morning Diary (August 10) | Wonders in the Dark

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