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This Won't Hurt a Bit
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"With a lisp and a smile"
3 stars

Gordon Fairweather (Greig Pickhaver) is a dentist. Short on qualifications, but not on effrontery. Fairweather is a man with a plan that entails leaving his Australian hometown of Wagga Wagga to establish a dental practice in the English harbour city of Portsmouth.

Writer-director-producer Chris Kennedy cheekily tells Fairweather’s story Citizen Kane style. We begin with Scotland Yard’s arrest of him in an Asian bar and work backwards via flashbacks and interviews to fill in the narrative gaps. We hear from his university dental professor, a Wagga schoolmate, Dental Board investigator, psychiatrist, patients from Portsmouth and - most significantly - his dental nurse turned fiancée, Vanessa Prescott (Jacqueline McKenzie).

Although best known as comedic sports presenter “H.G. Nelson”, Pickhaver first appeared in Australian films as far back as 1977, as a featured extra in Break of Day. His gruff, sardonic delivery perfectly suits Fairweather. McKenzie undergoes an astonishing transformation from her breakthrough role the year before (1992) as a Nazi girlfriend in Romper Stomper. Vanessa is a sweet, sheltered and shy English girl with beauty queen looks marred only by an unfortunate tendency to lisp. The fine supporting cast includes Gordon Chater and Alwyn Kurts.

There’s really only one joke to This Won’t Hurt A Bit!, but Kennedy stretches it sufficiently to fill 80 minutes. The insistently catchy music score is courtesy of Mario Grigorov.

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originally posted: 10/09/03 17:10:50
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