Another Wiener From Solondz
Todd Solondz first caught my attention with "Welcome to the Dollhouse," a dark and disturbing comedy. Then he gave us "Happiness," in my opinion, as good a black comedy as I have ever seen. He's had a few other good ones, since, and now he has given us "Wiener Dog," another black comedy that while not his best, it's not far from it.
"Wiener-Dog" follows the life of a dachshund as it repeatedly switches owners. In that way, it reminded me of Robert Bresson's French film classic, "Au hazard Balthazar," whose central character was a donkey that moved from owner to owner. While the French film mostly looked at the abuses to the donkey, Solondz casts the dachshund as an innocent bystander that watches stupid humans doing stupid things.
The first master of the dachshund is Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke), a 9-year-old boy who recently survived a battle with cancer. He has named the dachshund, Wiener-Dog and he loves his pet. His parents (Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy) are not interested in Wiener-Dog and both of them come across as total phonies that you would try and avoid at a party. The behavior of the parents is stiff, much like how the characters in "Happiness" interacted.
Wiener-Dog gets a hold of a granola bar and eats the whole thing. The results are ugly. She deposits vomit and diarrhea just about everywhere in the house. This doesn't go over well with Remi's parents. At the vet's office, Dawn (Greta Gerwig), a lonely assistant, steals the dog. She then meets Brandon (Kieran Culkin), a man she knows from the past, although they were never close. He is a druggie that is drifting along, and even though there isn't much appealing about him, Dawn is happy to have a friend.
She joins him on a road trip to Ohio for no particular reason, and brings Wiener-Dog along. She has renamed the dog, Doody, and a funny song plays in the soundtrack devoted to this new name. The dog changes owners a couple of more times, but the point of all this has nothing to do with the dog. It's about how screwed up human beings are, even if they fit into what somehow passes for normal, continuing the theme of all of Solondz's films.
Todd Solondz is a personal favorite of mine because he has the very unique ability to make an audience laugh nervously. You find yourself laughing while something inside you tells you that you should be ashamed of yourself for doing so. His characters are almost universally uncomfortable, too. Most importantly though, Solondz entertains like no other current writer/director. "Wiener-Dog" isn't his best film, but it's still a tasty treat.