Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Now on Amazon Prime: Wiener-Dog (2016)

Wiener-Dog (2016) - Written and Directed by Todd Solondz; Starring Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Burstyn, Zosia Mamet, Julie Delpy, Tracy Letts.

By Kenny Howell

Todd Solondz makes his own Au Hasard Balthazar in this tale of a wiener-dog that goes through several different owners.

Au Hasard Balthazar, directed by Robert Bresson, was a French masterpiece about a donkey that went through several different owners and saw the worst cruelty and greatest beauty of life before meeting a tragic end.

That is exactly what Solondz is doing here, though the results are drastically different because he lives in an ultra black comedy world that makes the tone incredibly different from that Bresson work.

Solondz also brings back his own work into the mix, as Dawn Wiener, this time portrayed by Greta Gerwig (To Rome With Love), the protagonist from his first film Welcome to the Dollhouse, reappears all grown up as a vet tech who runs into one of her old classmates that brutally made fun of her.

There is also a little boy whose parents are the worst, a screenwriter played by Danny DeVito (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) who is wasting away in academia and a woman portrayed by Ellen Burstyn (Two Men in Town) who has given up on life.

The vignettes are pretty different in tone, viewed through Solondz lens of weirdness. The strongest one is the one that is least bizarre, which is the one with DeVito's depressed writer. Gerwig's Dawn Wiener is quite good too, but the bookends to those stories are just kind of silly, though I did like the intermission with the wiener-dog traveling across the country. Much like Solondz other work, it's a mixed bag leading to an uneven viewing experience.

Wiener-Dog is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: **

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