By Liz Lopez
In a matter of one week, I have viewed three films that have had images that I find disturbing and by the time I finished with the last one, Wiener-Dog, written and directed by Todd Solondz, my immediate thoughts were negative. I have viewed one of this filmmaker’s features before about ten years ago and had the opportunity to meet and interview him. I thought I knew what to anticipate, more or less, when the promotional information described Wiener-Dog as a “dark comedy.” I was wrong. I misjudged this story and after the first fifteen minutes, I discovered how dark the humor really is.
It is much darker than I could have anticipated. I know for a fact that seven out of the eight people I mentioned this film to would not have been happy with the darkness of the content. I can safely say they do not go to view a film to have this kind of dark reality placed so boldly on the big screen. My concern is that someone will see or read the marketing material and think it is about a cute dog and the multiple owners. They will likely buy a ticket without giving a second thought to what kind of personalities the owners actually have and what happens to the dog during his life. The film is rated R and I do not recommend the film for children. The humor in this film is not for everyone. Don’t let the great cast fool you.
Most everyone in this screenplay has something going on in their life and if not, there is something missing. This one dog starts by being left at the pound and soon after, the chapters in her life unfold as she is “adopted,” then given away again and again by several owners.
From the pound, she (Wiener-Dog) is taken to live in a high end home by Danny (Tracy Letts) as a gift for his son, Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke), although his mother, Dina (Julie Delpy) is quite opposed. It is not long before their differences win out and Wiener-Dog is at the vet for extensive digestive problems. (Warning – the scene is potentially going to make someone gag.)
The vet tech, Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig) isn’t on board with what is about to happen to Wiener-Dog, so she decides to make a life change. About the same time, Dawn encounters an old school mate, Brandon (Kieran Culkin), and suddenly decides to join him in his wandering about the country. It seems like days later, Dawn has no problem giving the dog away to Brandon’s sibling.
Just how Wiener-Dog lands in the city and on a university campus with a film professor Dave Schmerz (Danny DeVito) is not quite clear, but this sad man seems to not lose any time finding a way to use the pet as a means to an end to his career.
Wiener-Dog ends up as a pet for an elderly woman, Nana (Ellen Burstyn), with an estranged granddaughter, Zoe (Zosia Mamet) and her artist boyfriend, Fantasy (Michael James Shaw) who suddenly shows up in need of cash. The scene of Wiener-Dog’s demise is not for the weak.
The 90 minute film will be available at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar as of Friday, July 1st.
Source: Amazon Studios and IFC Films