Wiener-Dog. Todd Solondz. USA.
After the most forgettable and earnest film of his career, 2011’s Dark Horse, Todd Solondz returned to what he knows with Wiener-Dog, another unofficial sequel (or spin-off) of his 1995 masterpiece Welcome to the Dollhouse. Whereas his 2004 feature Palindromes opened with the funeral of Dollhouse’s central figure, Dawn Wiener (played then by Heather Matarazzo), Wiener-Dog resurrects her, now played by Greta Gerwig, in a questionable but not-wholly-sour casting decision. Dawn becomes but one of the four owners owners of the same dachshund puppy through several stages of the dog’s life.
Dividing Wiener-Dog into four vignettes is a rather simplistic narrative trick, but Solondz had the foresight to make each chapter better than the previous, culminating in a truly hysterical and heartbreaking segment in which the dog, here named Cancer, is owned by the great Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn’s performance makes up for some the lagging elements in the previous vignettes and brings the dachshund’s journey to an unexpected end. As a whole, Wiener-Dog is inconsistent and, at times, lacking the sharpness that we saw in Solondz’s strongest period, the 90s, but knowing that going in, the film manages to be intermittently poignant, challenging, and funny and, with Burstyn’s help, leaves the audience with more satisfaction than the director has done in years.
Wiener-Dog was released by IFC Films and Amazon Studios in the U.S. earlier this year and is currently streaming with Amazon Prime. It was released by Picturehouse Entertainment in the U.K. and by ARP Sélection under the name Le teckel in France earlier this year as well.
With: Ellen Burstyn, Danny DeVito, Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Keaton Nigel Cooke, Zosia Mamet, Julie Delpy, Tracy Letts, Michael Shaw, Sharon Washington, Connor Long, Bridget Brown, Kett Turton, Ari Graynor, Trey Gerrald, Clara Mamet, Katherine Reis, Marcella Lowery, Devin Druid