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Posts Tagged ‘Trady Letts’

WIENER-DOG-01“WEINER-DOG” My rating: B+

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A new Todd Solondz movie should be approached with equal parts anticipation and trepidation.

Trepidation because Solondz’s take on the human condition is a grimly amusing collision of the tender and the terrifying. And because while other American filmmakers cannily hedge their bets, diluting the astringent bite of their messages (or avoiding messages altogether), Solondz appears incapable of delivering his shocking assessments at anything less than full strength.

Oh, he’s got a sense of humor. But it’s a comic vision so dark that many won’t find it comic at all.

His latest, “Wiener-Dog,” follows a format most famously established by the great French director Robert Bresson in 1966’s “Au Hasard Balthazar,” the story of a hard-laboring donkey who passes through the hands of various cruel or indifferent human beings.

But “Weiner-Dog” is also a sequel of sorts to Solondz’s debut feature, 1995’s “Welcome to the Doll House,” which followed the unhappy adolescence of outsider geek Dawn Wiener.

The canine of the title is a female dachshund bought from a pet store by a middle-aged man (the playwright/actor Tracy Letts) as a gift for his son, Remi, who has only recently beat a cancer diagnosis.  Mom (Julie Delpy) is furious — one look at her sterile, uber-modern home tells us she has enough issues with a messy little boy, much less a shedding, shitting animal.

Little Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Heather Matarrazo, the star of “Dollhouse…” back in the day) lives an isolated life and is thrilled with his new pet, whom he dubs “Wiener-Dog.” The pooch is the one touch of spontaneous joy in his chilly world and his love for Wiener-Dog only intensifies with his parents’ growing irritation with this latest member of the household.

For Wiener-Dog whines and barks all night from her cage, refuses to be house trained and cannot obey Dad’s frustrated commands (“Heel, motherfucker!”). And when Remi objects to his  pet being spayed, Mom delivers a ghastly story from her own childhood about how her pet dog  was “raped” by a neighborhood cur named Muhammud and died giving birth to stillborn puppies. (Like so many memorable moments from the Solondz canon, you don’t know whether to recoil in horror or collapse in bitter laughter.)

Following an epic case of canine diarrhea — recorded by Solondz in a long tracking shot that feels like a nod to the traffic jam in Godard’s “Weekend” — the dog is sent to the vet’s to be destroyed.  But a lonely veterinary aide (Greta Gerwig) adopts Weiner-Dog, aptly renaming her Doody.

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