The film tells four stories, all linked by a wiener-dog (that’s a sausage dog to us Brits). In the first, a father gives his son a puppy, much to the chagrin of the boy's mother (Julie Delpy). The same dog finds its way into the hands of indie favourite Greta Gerwig, who embarks on a sudden road trip with an old classmate. Danny Devito stops by as a frustrated film school teacher and Ellen Burstyn provides a show-stopping finale as a rich grandmother haunted by regret. It’s packed but feels a little insubstantial – which is disappointing for a film that explores so many of life’s big moments.
The trailer makes it look like a heart-warming family tale but this is no Marley and Me sequel. Like its sprightly subject, the film’s hard to pin down. It's part comedy, part tragedy – a slightly mad movie mongrel. There are ruminations on love, death and drugs. That's a lot to take in, and it could easily have been exhausting. But Solondz handles the material lightly and there are some surprisingly poignant moments. Like all his films, Wiener-Dog is a love or hate affair. If it’s your thing, you’ll love every cutesy and twisted quirk. If it’s not, you’ll probably roll your eyes for 90 minutes.
There’s not much plot, so the ticket price is earned through the performances. Here, at least, is some good old-fashioned storytelling. Solondz makes the most of his starry cast. Burstyn is masterful as she contemplates death, reflecting on her life's regrets. Gerwig – who should be a megawatt star by now – balances comedy with a heartfelt touch. Julie Delpy turns in a subtle performance as an exasperated wife and protective mother.
It ends with a bang, and then a whimper, and then a laugh. And you'll want to watch it all over again. Or wipe it from your memory forever.
|What||Wiener-Dog film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
12 Aug 16 – 12 Oct 16, Times vary
|Price||£Prices vary by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|