I love Todd Solondz. One of my best ever moviegoing experiences was seeing Happiness in a New York City movie theater; walking out the crowd was discombobulated and upset and two guys got into a fist fight in the lobby. After an arthouse movie! That's the power of Solondz' cinema - it can get under your skin in insidious ways.
So I love Solondz, and I trust Solondz. I even like Life During Wartime, his previous semi-sequel to Happiness. But Todd Solondz is testing my trust with his next film, The Weiner-Dog (not my spelling).
It's being positioned as a sort-of sequel to his breakout film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, which was about the profoundly outsidery teen Dawn Wiener, played by Heather Matarazzo. She was mockingly called "the Wiener Dog" by her peers; her story sort of picked up again in Palindromes, which opens on her funeral. Dawn ended up killing herself.
Or did she? The Weiner-Dog will feature Dawn Wiener... and she's being played by the lovely and charming Greta Gerwig. Which is... weird. I mean, Matarazzo is out there. She was great in Hostel Part II. So even if Solondz decides to walk back Dawn's death... cast Gerwig?
Honestly, at this early stage (ie, I know very little about the movie), this feels like a betrayal. Dawn Wiener doesn't grow up to become Greta Gerwig, even a Greta Gerwig done up "Hollywood ugly." I love Solondz' movies because of their misanthropic worldview that is always squarely on the side of the outsider, the freak and the weirdo. His casting of Matarazzo was amazing in Welcome to the Dollhouse because she felt genuine in the role. Many of the best bits of Solondz' movies have felt profoundly genuine, even when they're heightened and darkly comic. I have always felt like Todd Solondz makes movies for people who wholesale reject the notion of "It Gets Better" - in his world it just gets Bad In A Different Way.
And that's what I love about his movies! I love that these are films for people who didn't blossom, who don't fit in, who are weird in ways that aren't cool and chic.
But maybe I'm fundamentally misreading The Weiner-Dog, because this whole plot sounds so un-Solondz I don't know what to make of it:
The script tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.
LOL WHAT. Remember, in Happiness Solondz had a scene where a son is upset because his child molester father never fucked him, wondering if it meant his dad didn't truly love him. THINK ON THAT. Think on that when you imagine this dog inspiring people.
What's probably happening here is that this logline does not get across some fundamentally acerbic aspect of this script, some underlying darkness that makes this movie something more than a canine take on feel-good ensemble movies like Valentine's Day. Right? Right, Todd? That's why it 'seems' to be spreading comfort and joy?