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A ‘Wiener-Dog’ Sows The Seeds Of Tragedy In New Film

November 19, 2017

This is FRESH AIR. Our film critic David Edelstein has seen a lot of dog movies over the years. But he says few are as provocative as a “Wiener-Dog.” It’s the eighth feature by writer-director Todd Solondz, who’s best known for his early films, “Welcome To The Dollhouse” and “Happiness.” The title character is a dachshund who lives in four successive homes. The film stars Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito and Ellen Burstyn.

DAVID EDELSTEIN, BYLINE: Todd Solondz is a difficult filmmaker to warm up to. And some people never will. His characters inhabit an artificial, insulated world, generally, suburban New Jersey, where despair festers in private and America’s social injustices are kept at bay, glimpsed only on TV screens in garishly decorated living rooms. His cruelty is cold and contained, though I can’t help thinking there’s a humanist alive inside him, even if it has been trampled into something unrecognizable.

I love his latest movie, “Wiener-Dog.” Thanks to its cute canine mascot, it’s Solondz’s most outwardly ingratiating film. Still, it’s best to keep in mind from the start that Solondz’s world is not kind to children or pets. The movie consists of four episodes linked by a female dachshund, which has four different owners and goes by four different names, the first being Wiener-Dog.

Her caretakers appear in order of their age – a trusting little boy, a high-strung young woman, a bitter and volatile male screenwriting professor and an elderly woman whose mind has turned towards death. The first story, set in an affluent New Jersey home, is the most heavy-handed. But even Solondz’s cheap shots at his characters carry the seeds of tragedy. A boy named Remi, played by Keaton Nigel Cooke, greets his new pet with delight. But his dad, played by Tracy Letts, a playwright who knows a thing or two about cruelty himself, keeps the kid and pooch apart.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “WIENER-DOG”)

KEATON NIGEL COOKE: (As Remi) Hey, Dad, when do you think we can let Wiener-Dog out of her cage?

GROSS: (As Danny) When she’s housebroken.

COOKE: (As Remi) Why do people say housebroken?

TRACY LETTS: (As Danny) Because Remy, you have to break a dog, break their will so that they’ll submit to your will. It’s a kind of civilizing, so they act like humans.

COOKE: (As Remi) You mean so they go to the bathroom outside instead of inside?

LETTS: (As Danny) Exactly.

COOKE: (As Remi) But when you break a will – well, what is a will exactly anyway?

LETTS: (As Danny) It’s character, force of character. It’s the thing that makes you, you.

To read more please follow : https://www.npr.org/2016/06/27/483247141/a-wiener-dog-sows-the-seeds-of-tragedy-in-new-film