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‘Wiener-Dog’ Review: Greta Gerwig and a Put-Upon Hound Explore the Sweet Miseries of Life

April 3, 2018

We’re introduced to the sweet-faced dachshund star of the mordantly funny “Wiener-Dog” as she waits patiently, in a cage, for whatever might come next. No cushion to get comfortable on, she awkwardly shifts her weight on the metal grid, never finding her footing.

In any other context, the adorable pup’s next station in life would be that of happy adoptee, sentenced to cuddles, petting and Instagram likes. Unfortunately, this charming, ergonomically challenged dog is the subject of a bleak comedy from Todd Solondz (“Happiness,” “Welcome to the Dollhouse”), a filmmaker whose work never fails to dive deeply into the unhappiest corners of human experience.

Solondz’s most famous character, bullied middle-schooler Dawn Wiener from “Dollhouse,” whose suicide he documented in 2004’s  “Palindromes,” finds a second shot at life here (played by Greta Gerwig). So does Dawn’s cruel childhood nickname, “Wiener-Dog.” It’s used both on Dawn and the dachshund, and the pain of existence transfers from human to dog, from dog to human, a circle endlessly looping itself.

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