Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Written & Directed By: Todd Solondz
Cinematography By: Edward Lachman
Editor: Kevin Messman
Cast: Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Zosia Mamet, Clara Mamet, Ari Graynor, Tracy Letts, Keaton Nigel Cooke, Charlie Tahan,
A dachshund passes from oddball owner to oddball owner, whose radically dysfunctional lives are all impacted by the pooch.
It seems like this film is all set-up with no punchline or release of relief. Like tiny slices of life. Short story sketches with no real ending.
The title of the film seems to try to lure the audience with cuteness. Hoping the audience will watch to see how the dog comes into play through out the film. Maybe even observing life from his point of view. Though this being a Todd Solondz film it is more about observing the cruelties of life with a bit of humor that ultimately becomes cathartic.
As it seems the film is titled not only after The type of dog, but for the character of Dawn Wiener who makes an appearance in one of the tales.It was also her characters nickname from the film WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. that she was constantly called throughout. Making one think this was a sequel or going to focus more on her character.
The Danny DeVito storyline seems the saddest and the one that cuts the deepest as it seems to send up what could have been for the director of this film Todd Solondz as it seems a bit personal or something he might have seen happen. As it also seems to send up this generation of wanna-be filmmakers who lie the prestige of making content but don’t actually know how to and have no sense of history or direction of the field. As all the young characters are obnoxious,superficial and worst of all artificial while seeking to be seen as having depth. Though his character could also be seen as modeled on a less popular Woody Allen.
It always seems like in some of director Todd Solondz’s films. He slyly tries to send up or skewer popular cinema or at least popular indie films of recent times While staying with his usual dark material. This film seems random and not quite focused like his film STORYTELLING. Though with that film couldn't really tell after the controversy in releasing it. If he lost his passion for the film or was so over it and just released it whichever way was easiest.
Though I will mention that he is one of my favorite modern day directors with his usually dark humorous characters. So rich and some kind of story while rallying against people and humanity in some way. Or at least people's lack of humanity.
Seeming to use depression or annoyances at people and the world to help create and frame stories. Here it feels almost like he is on autopilot. This film is sad, funny and full of humanistic stories of depressed individuals.
He also like to play with continuous characters as here he brings back Dawn Wiener from WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE for one of the segments. Even as he killed off the character in his film PALINDROMES. Here played by Greta Gerwig (Not played by original actress Heather Matarazzo) she gets a chance to reunite with Brandon from WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE only now played by Kieran Culkin. So it allows for a sort of continuation and sequel. Sort of how his film LIFE DURING WARTIME was a sequel to HAPPINESS. Only with the same characters played by an all new cast. Even linking characters from WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE into the film with different actors playing the roles. So his films are somewhat playful. Though by having returning characters let's their lives play out across his cinematic universe and informs the characters history for the audience who already know their yields and tribulations . So it's not needed to play out or explain so much. So the story can just keep moving along.
The last scenario plays like a one act play starring Ellen Burstyn, with a wickedly funny ending. The scenario Is heartbreaking and offers a kind of questioning of what if? Though we know the character would never have changed her decisions. As she is that spiteful. The only ray of hope comes in a brief exchange with her granddaughter. Where they both showcase a vulnerability.
The film is episodic as usual but also feels more random. In the end the film seems to be all about morality. It seems to keep building towards some big payoff in each vignette and ultimately it doesn't. It just stays the course. So that when each one ends it feels like that's it?
The second half of the film. Unlike the first half. Never explains how the dog changes hands to new owners
As each of the owners seem to have the dog to help take off loneliness. In the beginning the dog is a coping mechanism or a kind of savior. In the next two more a companion that is used more as a continuing prop. Used more as a respirator. Though the owners relish in having a certain dominance. One thing that they can control and feel superior to, Though symbolic as the stories takes place. As a phantom member of family that displaces or exposes and expands fractures in an already delicate dynamic. Some will easily dismiss as all set-up with no grounding. The film to me seems to be about texture and digging into it. To unearth material and ingredients, To expose them. That really builds he story, character and experience of watching the film
As he tries that you can make anything beautiful by having a tracking shot of dog diarrhea with the classical theme of Clair de lune playing while we follow it. The thing that brings all these characters together and plays a supporting role in their lives. In the end is made into an attraction for crowds to untie and see. To feel better about themselves to a degree. Finding beauty, fun and wonder to study. Finally getting to be the star.
Following an angry response from some audience members at the January 2016 Sundance premiere, a few festival reviewers purposefully spoiled the film in detail so as to deter animal lovers from seeing the film.