Film Review: Weiner-Dog

Weiner-Dog

Todd Solondz Wiener-Dog is an immensely entertaining black comedy. Some segments of the film charm more than others, but overall the film is very enjoyable viewing.

A dachshund passes from various owners, each with their own idiosyncrasies. The little dog impacts their lives, as he is passed from a family to a veterinary nurse, from an odd couple to a screenwriter…

Writer-director Todd Solondz delivers another black comedy which swiftly veers from humour to tragedy. Weiner-Dog works so well because Solondz captures his characters succinctly and successful. Each of the vignettes is distinctive, yet features the same brand of black comedy.

Weiner-Dog is divided into a series of short stories, each featuring the same cute dog. Some of these vignettes are more memorable than others. The film starts strong with a young boy getting his dog, despite the reluctance of his mother. This sequence sets up the tone of the film effectively. Solondz paints his film with some bleak ideas. It is the humour surrounding the darkness which makes the film enjoyable. There are some serious themes throughout the film, yet the light touch approach makes these palatable.

The veterinary nurse sequence is as sweet as it is odd. The vignette with the script writer at film school will prove most amusing for those who have experienced similar situations to those portrayed. The penultimate scene will satisfy only those with the darkest of humour. The prolonged duration will feel unnecessary for other viewers. There are some glorious shots in Weiner-Dog, not least the slow-motion interlude in the first segment. The intermission is charming in its silliness.

The ensemble cast of the film do a good job of inhabiting their characters. Kieran Culkin and Greta Gerwig work well together in their story. Julie Delpy is suitably priggish in the opening segment, a good contrast to joy of Keaton Nigel Cooke. Danny DeVito’s weariness perfectly suits his character.

The humour of Weiner-Dog will not thrill everyone, but it is wonderful fun for those who like their comedy black.

Film Review: Dark Horse

Dark Horse a comedy drama that is only partially successful. Todd Solondz’s film has its moments, but feels unsatisfactory by the time the ending arrives.

Abe is a thirty-something toy collector who works for his father’s company. When he meets Miranda at a wedding, he decides to pursue her, despite her initial reluctance. A relationship forms between Abe and Miranda, who is living back with her parents after a break up, but there is trouble ahead…

Dark Horse is an interesting film, but one that loses its way. The humour works well, and is an anecdote to the more sombre aspects of the film. Nonetheless, with the uncertainty over the film’s narrator, Dark Horse blurs the line between reality and fantasy. This has been done exceptionally well in films, but it just doesn’t work in Solondz’s latest effort. The switching of realities grows tiresome, and is likely to leave viewers unsatisfied with the film.

Part of the issue is that the characters are not easy to identify with. Lacking the impulse to empathise with the central character entails feelings of apathy towards the character’s fate. Although complex or unlikeable characters can make great protagonists, Abe lacks anything that would really absorb the viewer’s attention. Miranda has the same problem, although she is a little more interesting.

Dark Horse boasts a great cast, but performances are not sufficient to save the film. Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow have little opportunity to shine in their rigid roles. Dark Horse boasts a great opening scene and some good moments, but it is all downhill from there.

Dark Horse is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.