Wiener-Dog review- Gerwig, Delpy and DeVito, unified by a dachshund, divided by Solondz

4 months, 11 days ago

An adorable mutt is at the heart of Todd Solondzs deeply disturbing portmanteau slapstick, starring Ellen Burstyn, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy and Greta Gerwig as the grown-up heroine of Welcome to the Dollhouse

Todd Solondz is a film-maker whos built his entire career on a divine they are able to severely divide audiences and genuinely anger his protesters. Happiness, his most memorably divisive movie, was a dark comedy that mined uncomfortable laughs from a storyline largely centred on the activities of a paedophile. It was so controversial in fact, that the Sundance cinema celebration, known for screening edgy fare, flat out refused to show it in 1998 due to its illicit content.

No child molesters creep into Solondzs eighth feature, Wiener-Dog, but his latest demonstrates the film-maker, at 56 years old, has lost none of his bite. However, the plot description would result you to believe otherwise.

Sundances official summary of the cinema reads: Wiener-Dog tells several tales featuring people who find “peoples lives” inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading a certain kind of consolation and pleasure. Indeed, that one particular dachshund features prominently in each of the four mostly unrelated vignettes that make up the cinema, although Solondz leaves it unclear how the canine lands with each of its strange owners. But Wiener-Dog doesnt find Solondz running light to deliver an inspirational medley. Instead, hes made arguably his most caustic film since Happiness.

Like much of Solondzs output, Wiener-Dog is basically a slew of short cinemas, inhabited by an obscenely illustrious cast, including Julie Delpy, Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn and Zosia Mamet.


Delpy kickings things off with her trademark acerbic delivery as Dina, a mom of a young boy regaining from cancer who really shouldnt has become a mom at all. Her husband surprises the family by adopting the dachshund, which the child names Wiener-Dog, but Dina immediately takes a deep dislike to the new addition. While tucking her son into bed, she recounts how her non-neutered childhood dog was raped by a stray puppy named Muhammed, which resulted in her pet succumbing while giving birth to stillborn puppies.

Things cheer up with the arrival of Greta Gerwig as Dawn Wiener, the grown-up version of the shy, unpopular seventh grader played by Heather Matarazzo in Solondzs breakout film, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Shes now a timid veterinarians assistant. Following a luck series of events, Dawn comes to care for the adorable dachshund, before embarking on a strange road journey with an old classmate.

Next up is Danny DeVito in a tour-de-force performance as a film professor at his humours end with his uninspired students and insipid colleagues. This sequence lets Solondz, whos never betrayed his independent roots to parlay his talents into the mainstream arena, tear into Hollywoods vacuous nature – and its a hoot to watch.

Solondz leaves his best for last with the movies closing chapter, which focuses on Nana, a massively embittered elderly female( Ellen Burstyn in her best performance since Requiem for a Dream ). When her estranged granddaughter( Mamet) shows up unannounced and asks what to call the cute household dachshund, shes shocked to learn its named Cancer. It felt right – everyones dying, says Nana.

A sequence during which Nana dreamings of how their own lives could have been better had she played her cards differently is the cinemas chief highlighting: mordantly funny, but most importantly, poignant.

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