Directed by Todd Solondz
Starring Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn
If you’re a dog lover like myself (and who isn’t?), then I should warn you that that wouldn’t be a good reason to see Wiener-Dog, this somewhat deceptively cute little indie film. There may be some adorable moments with the titular dachshund, some of which is in glorious slow-motion, but the film can also otherwise be a cynical look at how different people regard dogs, using them desperately for companionship that they are not able to get in their dour and disappointing lives.
The film follows this little doggie through four different stories: the first with a small family in an upper class suburban home, second is with a veterinarian (Greta Gerwig) who takes the dog on a road-trip with her love interest (Kieran Culkin), then with aspiring screenwriter/film teacher (Danny DeVito), before lastly ending up with a blind old lady waiting to die (Ellen Burstyn). What connects these stories is how the characters relate, or don’t relate, to the centrepiece dachshund.
If you’re familiar with writer-director Todd Solondz, you may feel a little more wary about how adorable this film may sound. A master of the macabre, Solondz has explored just about every dark inch of suburban living in his very auteur-ish films, and Wiener-Dog is no different. These four stories vary in their warmness towards the dog, the first two showing the joys and adventures of man’s best friend, the other two focusing more on the wretched lives of the dachshunds’ owners.
Wiener-Dog’s conclusion, which is sure to leave the most sour of tastes in even the hardest Solondz fans’ mouths, is a clever and darkly amusing commentary on how differently dogs can be appreciated in art than in real life. It seems not even the filmmakers themselves are immune from any criticism the film throws at our dog-loving culture.
It has its cute moments and it has its dark moments. Wiener-Dog makes the most of its motley crew of characters in these four stories, showing the light and the dark in dog ownership. Each of these stories are so acidic in their humour and would make for a harsh watch if it weren’t for how commendable all of the actors relish in their brilliant characters, particularly Burstyn’s bitter old lady who says so much with so little. If you’re a dog lover, and have ambivalent feelings about people, it sounds like Wiener-Dog may be for you.
Catch Wiener-Dog as part of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, playing on Thurs 13 July 4:45pm and Mon 17 July 6:45pm at Luna.