thu 12/12/2019

DVD: Weiner-Dog | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Weiner-Dog

DVD: Weiner-Dog

A dachshund looks for America in Todd Solondz's latest

Sausage-dog serenade: Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke) and Weiner-DogLinda Callerus

This is a story of an adorable dachshund and her cross-country travels, divided into four parts. So far so cute, but as this is a Todd Solondz movie, it doesn’t stay that way. Kids, avert your eyes. The dog’s first home – and the most impressive part of the film – is with lonely young Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke) who’s recovering from cancer. He names her Weiner-Dog and they bond (the first shot of Remi is of him lying on bright green grass in a pose straight out of Boyhood, though similarities end there). But control-freak dad (Tracy Letts) is an owner from hell, even though it was he who rescued the dog from a strip-mall Shake a Paw puppy-store.

“Heel, motherfucker,” he barks as he drags poor Weiner-Dog down the driveway of their sterile glass box of a suburban house (Solondz does suburban ennui to perfection, and Ed Lachman's cinematography lends its landscape a wonderful vibrancy). The mom (Julie Delpy) is gentler but her explanation of the advantages of spaying are lurid, involving tales of canine rape and venereal disease. When the parents are out doing yoga, Remi and Weiner-Dog have fun, with disastrous results. Never has a camera dwelt so lovingly on pools of dog diarrhoea, with Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” as accompaniment.

Next stop the vet, in another strip mall, where bespectacled assistant Dawn Weiner (Greta Gerwig) rescues our heroine from being euthanised. We last saw Dawn in Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, where she was a bullied adolescent (played by Heather Matarazzo) known to her tormentors as Weiner-Dog. How suitable, then, that Dawn nurses her back to health – she renames her Doody – then sets off on a road trip with her and Dollhouse character Brandon (a remarkable, dead-pan Keiran Culkin), now a druggie. “What’s in Ohio?” asks Dawn. “Crystal meth,” he replies.

Solondz includes a Tarantino-style intermission in which a stirring ballad by South Park composer Marc Shaiman accompanies the pioneering dog across dramatic backdrops of the mountains and rivers of the land of the free. But there are no dramatic improvements in Weiner-Dog’s lot. In spite of her dignified bearing, she doesn't bring joy and each owner is more miserable than the last. Even so, this film – Solondz’s eighth – is lighter and more lyrical than some, such as Happiness, that laugh-a-minute epic about a child molester (1998), or even Dark Horse of 2011, which marked a kind of mellowing. But his characters are still despairing, isolated and misanthropic, especially Schmerz, a failed scriptwriter (Danny DeVito) and Ellen Burstyn as a grandma who calls the dog Cancer, “because it felt right”. I could have done with more dog and less humanity in this strange, queasy saga. Maybe that was the point.

Never has a camera dwelt so lovingly on pools of dog diarrhoea, with Debussy’s 'Clair de Lune' as accompaniment

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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