Wiener-Dog Oct 13, 2016 13:30:01 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 13, 2016 13:30:01 GMT -5
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Please understand that I do not mean it as a snide nor sarcastic remark when I say that the best part of Todd Solondz's latest film Wiener-Dog is indeed the minute-or-two-long intermission that comes at the center of this only eighty-eight minute film. To ruin the magic would be criminal, so let's just say it involves the titular animal being a very good girl.
The film around Solondz's marvelous use of a bygone convention is almost as fun, but feels a bit too loose and would've likely benefited from a bit of a tighter hold on these characters and the particular man's best friend that connected them. The film follows four lost, wayward individuals, and the commonality shared between them all is a stout little Dachshund dog that weaves his way in and out of their humble existences. The first is a suburban family that has the father bringing his son, a recent cancer-survivor, a wiener-dog as a pet. His wife doesn't want the responsibility, but her husband assures that their son is responsible enough to handle a dog. However, when the son feeds the dog a chocolate chip granola bar, resulting in her having severe diarrhea, the father takes the dog to the vet to be euthanized.
That's when the quirky vet Dawn (Greta Gerwig) decides to take the poor pup home and nurse her back to health. When she successfully does so, we get a glimpse into her checkered life, as she reconnects with an old high school friend (Kieran Culkin) and takes a roadtrip where she stumbles upon Mexican hitchhikers. To my knowledge, these characters are ejected right from Solondz's breakout feature Welcome to the Dollhouse, and this is sort-of a followup to their situations.
The next two narrative tangents aren't exactly as clear as how the wiener-dog found them, but if you can retain that suspension of disbelief, you might be able to make it through them relatively unperturbed. The third story is probably the saddest, with Danny DeVito playing Dave Schmerz, a depressed and lonely screenwriting professor with a perpetually negative attitude and outlook on life. He brings everyone from his teachers and his classmates down, with a sullen smug of sadness on his face at all times, not even remedied much by the presence of our titular "hero." Our fourth and final story focuses on a grandmother, who is having her granddaughter and quirky artist boyfriend over to visit. As her granddaughter's young voice holds back indecision and tears, her ostensibly stone-faced grandmother shows her emotions when she finally gets acquainted with all the opportunities and potentials she missed out on in life, all of which haunt her in a deeply surreal manner.
Wiener-Dog is not the kind of film that accentuates the invaluable role that a dog could play in a person's life nor is it a film about the uplifting qualities of such a companion either. On its own merits, it's a strange, sometimes uncomfortable look at the lives of very troubled individuals who all, in their own way, seem irredeemably, unequivocally miserable. This is the perfect film that's good for a few moments, especially when DeVito is on-screen doing his thing, but uneven and unclear when it comes to a takeaway. If the idea that a dog's will or character changes came through in a more communicable manner, then we'd have something greater to chew on. Butwith the dog taking on such a limited role in the latter two stories, on top of his entry into the respective lives of those characters being unclear, it offsets the credibility and idea of the project in a way that prevents it from being investing.
Starring: Keaton Nigel Cook, Ellen Burstyn, Kieran Culkin, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito, Greta Gerwig, Tracy Letts, and Zosia Mamet. Directed by: Todd Solondz.