Review: “Wiener-Dog” is Todd Solondz at his darkest



Title: Wiener-Dog
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Posted August 12, 2016 by

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Wiener Dog 1

If you aren’t familiar, with the work of Todd Solondz, you could easily head into watching his new film “Wiener-Dog”, with the wrong expectations. Yes, the film features a cute little dachshund, but she is really just a connection between an anthology of four stories. Solondz brushes aside the relationship between man’s best friend and it’s different owners, and instead does what he does best; shine a spotlight on the heartbreaking, darkness of humanity.

The titular pooch is abandoned, at a pet shop, in the opening scene. Soon after, a man (Tracy Letts) adopts him, for his son Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke), who is recovering from a blood disorder, that nearly cost him his life. Right away, we see that Solondz is painting a picture of adult cynicism, when the father explains to his son that for the dog to be housebroken they will have to break it’s will. Later, the boys mother (Julie Delpy) tries to convince him that spaying the dog is good for her, by telling him a story of how her un-spayed, childhood dog was raped by another dog, and died during labor.

Wiener Dog 2The next, and best, segment of the film follows the dog to it’s new owner Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig taking on the role of Solondz’s most memorable character). Dawn rescues the dog (who she call “Doodee”), from being put to sleep, and takes it on a road trip, with her former junior high classmate Brandon (Kieran Culkin). During this segment, which is beautifully shot by DP Edward Lachman, Solondz focuses on the two social outcasts and their unlikely, but darkly funny, reunion. Gerwig is amazing, as usual, and plays Dawn with a hopeful lightness, similar to that of the young boy Remi. She is unhappy and disconnected though, and sees the road trip as a way to break away from the mundane life that she has been living.

Although the first two segments are linked, the next two are not connected. After a mid-movie intermission, we find the dog in the possession of film school professor Dave Schmerz (Danny DeVito). Dave is deeply depressed, and on the verge of losing his job, after students complain that he is too negative. Dave uses the poor dog, in an attempt to exact revenge on everyone at the university.

Finally, the dog comes into the care of a bitter, elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn) who gives her the name “Cancer”. The woman is nearing the end of her life, and shows the anger and self-disappointment of someone who has a lot of regrets. It is during this final segment, that you fully realize that, although the titular “Wiener-Dog” is the one visual connection to all of these characters, it is their sadness, and bleak outlook that is the real common thread, in their stories.

Wiener Dog 3Solondz focuses intensely on his fascination with the suffering of the human condition. Each of his characters has a sort of inner torment that leads them to question “Why keep struggling on?”. Although there is not a lot in the way of social commentary or philosophy here, like in many of his past works, it is still a very strong film that entertains, in his trademark jet black humor style.







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