“Teeth,” written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, is a dark, dark comedy that is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish of soul.
It’s a horror-comedy about castration anxiety. And no, that’s not a joke.
Read on if you dare.
The film begins with Dawn (Jess Weixler), a teen girl and crusader for abstinence who is often mocked for her beliefs, but she manages to toe the line between passionate and insufferable pretty well. But there’s something kind of weird about this girl, and when a boy rapes our heroine, he gets a nasty shock when an evolutionary defense mechanism chomps his maleness off (hence the title). This revelation leads Dawn on quite the funny and/or horrific journey of self-discovery.
“Teeth” is a tricky movie (it’s pretty hard to pull off a comedy involving so much sexual assault), but the film works, largely because Weixler has the right take on the role. Dawn goes from innocence to loss of innocence to experience in a very short time, and Weixler gives as much an emotional performance as a physical one. She knows how to convey the horror of the situation, while at the same time letting the audience laugh at the surreal absurdity of “vaginal dentata.”
“Teeth” could not have worked with the wrong actress in the lead role, and Weixler truly sells this character and her journey.
Unfortunately, while I can recommend “Teeth,” the film goes too far in its message, which somewhat sullies the idea of female empowerment Lichthenstein wants to convey. There’s a big difference between punishing men for their sex crimes, and punishing a guy for being a jerk. Justice is one thing, but revenge over a wrong that she participated in turns our heroine into a (brief) villain, which I’m guessing was not supposed to be the point of the film.
I can convince myself that her mistake was just another piece of her learning to control her power, but it’s a not a small quibble. In spite of that, I enjoyed the film enough to not write the whole thing off because of one misstep.
“Teeth” isn’t for everybody, but if you’re not the squeamish sort, you might just enjoy the ride.
Written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring: Jess Weixler (Dawn)