Sunday, 28 August 2016

REVIEW - WIENER-DOG (TODD SOLONDZ)


Todd Solondz's compassionate misanthropy takes on its cheeriest character yet in Wiener-Dog. Less wilfully abrasive than his most famous films, the film's relative palatability represents not a regression but an expansion for Solondz, a successful experiment in applying his trademark concerns to a more commercial product. Yet by now, what is communicated through those concerns bears less power than it once did; is it that we've heard it all before, or that Solondz has said it all better before? Better for us is to sit back and enjoy a thoroughly well-made comedy. Whether bleak or broad, the humour of Wiener-Dog is its strongest asset, both complementing the film's social commentary and distracting away from it. Comedy needs no context - not that it can't benefit from it, however - and the effect of such juvenile indulgences as a dog called 'Doody' or an otherwise-pointless intermission is to win one over. It's also fabulously made - never say Solondz is just a provocateur, since he's an excellent director of actors, and his shot compositions are superb, aided enormously by Edward Lachman's reliably fine cinematography. These quirky qualities might have been enough for Wiener-Dog, but it's loaded with more, in the form of an insistent desire to say something, to mean something more than just a silly film about a dog that looks like a sausage. Solondz's thematic ideas are thought through and developed with care, and his delivery of them - at once unsubtle and entirely vague - is as expressive in its bluntness as it is in the content which that bluntness seeks to conceal. But the silliness of the film itself and the seriousness of its intentions only mitigate each other's impact, exposing the little flaws scattered throughout. A successful experiment, but only just.