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Sundance 2016 Review: Wiener-Dog

Since the release of his 1995 breakout film Welcome to the Dollhouse, director Todd Solondz has gained a reputation for his devastatingly bleak worldview and exploration of the morally perverse. His films find navigate the lives of characters living in seemingly alien worlds, searching for meaning and peaceful existence. The latest Solondz vehicle, Wiener-Dog, uses a travelling dachshund as the catalyst of change in the lives of its four respective owners.

The wiener-dog is first adopted by Danny and Dina (Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy) for their cancer-surviving son Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke). The dog later finds its way into the hands of Welcome to the Dollhouse protagonist Dawn Wiener, played here by Greta Gerwig. After an intermission, we find the dog in the care of disgruntled screenwriting professor Dave Schmerz (Danny DeVito). Finally, the dog finds its last owner in an elderly woman played by Ellen Burstyn.

With his latest film, Solondz is perhaps at his most unfair. More than ever he seems to have taken arms against the human condition, forcing his characters into quietly devastating situations. While Wiener-Dog may show Solondz’ writing at its most humorous, the film is often uncomfortably dark. The mix between tragedy and dark-humour is brilliantly interwoven throughout forcing the viewer to confront their own sense of humour, making one question just how twisted they really are. There’s plenty to smile about in Solondz’s film, but those who have never been on board with his work will not be converted. Solondz continues to overstep the line of the morally acceptable unlike any filmmaker in the American indie scene, making Wiener-Dog a uniquely hilarious and discomforting experience. The film is only for the thick skinned, but those who do not mind a handful of perversity with the humour will be rewarded with a moving and surprisingly profound experience.

Dog lovers beware.

[star v=45]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.