Todd Solondz are misanthropic. The guy has a dark view of humanity, all right, and of life as it's lived by so many of us on this maybe-soon-to-be-uninhabitable earth. Yet the feeling I am left with, time and again after viewing his films, is one of sadness more than anger or hatred at our "miserable selves." (That his films are leavened with a lot of humor, black as it often is, also adds to their enjoyment level.) I'd call Solondz an angry humanist.
WIENER-DOG, which doubles as a kind of sequel to his first real indie hit, Welcome to the Dollhouse, which, among other things, put actress Heather Matarazzo on the map. But Solondz being Solondz (the filmmaker is shown at right), the film is very different from almost any sequel you'll have seen because its star, and the "link" that joins each of its segments, is an adorable little dachshund, the wiener-dog of the title. Functioning as a kind of all-purpose object upon which the humans that surround it can heap whatever nonsense they like (think maybe Bresson's Au hasard Balthazar, but -- heresy, I know -- Wiener-dog is the better movie), this little dog is something else.
Greta Gerwig, who becomes, as Ms Gerwig always manages to do with each new role, this character to an absolute T.
Julie Delpy, below), dad (Tracy Letts) and little son (a lovely job by Keaton Nigel Cooke, above). Entitled, self-serving, lying, hypocritical and seriously deluded, mom and dad manage to just about decimate their sickly son's little dog.
Ellen Burstyn (above), doing another of her recently fine round-ups of aging matriarchs (House of Cards, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You), on whom her granddaughter (Zosia Mamet, below) pays a call with her artist boyfriend (Michael Shaw) in tow. From each new owner, Wiener gets a new name but soldiers on, as ever. How our doggie becomes immortalized is, as they say, one for the books. But not, I think, for PETA people.
IFC Films and Amazon Studios, Wiener-dog hit theaters last weekend in New York and L.A. and will opens here and there around the country this coming Friday, July 1. In South Florida, you can see it in Miami at the Bill Cosford Cinema and Miami Beach Cinematheque. Then on Friday, July 8, it opens in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theaters.