Dogs in film have a loyal following: from Lassie to Benji, from Rin Tin Tin to Scooby-Doo. Last month in London there was a very special season celebrating the canine friends in cinema, in which actual dogs were allowed in the venue. The eclectic selection included the recent features Amores Perros (Alejandro Inarritu, 2000), White God (Kornel Mundruczo, 2014) and Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, 2015). Given the Todd Solondz’s history, DMovies expected to see a dark canine interpretation of the American dream in Wiener-Dog. Unfortunately, this time the acute cynicism of the American director fails to shine.
A cute dachshund puppy finds itself shuffled from one owner to another. The first family the dog belongs to is a bourgeois American-French couple, whose kid is sick. Father wants his son to be happy again and he brings the dog home for that purpose. But mother, played by Julie Delpy (from Kieslowski’s Three Colours: White, 1994), believes that dogs should be kept in cages. When she was a little girl, her poodle was “raped” by a stray dog.
The next owner is a vet that saves the dog from death. In this part of the movie, Solondz revisits Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), for his previous characters Dawn and Brandon are reunited in Wiener-Dog. Now grown-up, both are still unpopular creatures. Despite their kookiness, they are the only non-stereotypical characters in the whole movie.
The film then has a wholly redundant intermission. Danny DeVito, the following owner, plays a hated College teacher and a scriptwriter who is a loser and cannot sell his film – filmmakers’ favourite cliché. DeVito finds very ingenious and unorthodox revenge for both the dog and himself.
The last owner is an elderly and bitter woman with her visiting granddaughter. The film takes a bizarre and ackward turn that lacks credibility.
Solondz then ends his tale in a miserable way – abstractly speaking or not.
The problem is that the pooch does not tie the film together. In fact, it could have been any other creature: a parrot, a horse, a fish. Solondz could have told the same disconnected stories without the dog, as Robert Altman did in Short Cuts in 1994. Solondz’s achievement persists in his obsession with recreating alienated individuals. His indifference towards modern society is his usual weapon, but this time his gun is not loaded.
Wiener-Dog UK premiered on Friday 3rd at Sundance London Film Festival. Click here for more information about the Festival. The theatrical release of the film is on August 12th.
You can watch the film trailer below: