May 29, 2016

Trailing Off: "Wiener-Dog" (2016)

Greta Gerwig
Welcome to the weekly column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. Coming every Sunday (it's called Trailing Off for a reason), I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Trailer in Discussion

Directed By: Todd Solondz
Written By: Todd Solondz
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Zosia Mamet, Danny DeVito 

- Preamble -

As the summer quickly approaches, one can easily look at the movies that made a splash at Sundance. While there are those that will come out months, even a year, from now, this is the time when the small indie comedies and dramas make the rounds and make their case. The good marketing will tend to put them up as great alternatives to the blockbuster entertainment that usually fuels the cycle. In this case, Sundance has given us a film that I generally think sounds like it was made for someone like me. I admit that I haven't seen a Todd Solondz film before, but I am very curious based solely on the cast.
If it isn't clear, I generally think that Greta Gerwig is among the best actresses currently working right now. Frances Ha and Mistress America were both films the she wrote and starred in that had a lot of wit and brought back the screwball comedy by updating it for modern audiences. She also has some great comedic timing and with the right role even manages to be arguably the funniest actress currently working. While I don't think that I've been the best at it, this status makes me want to see anything that she's in, and Wiener-Dog is no exception. I don't know what it's about, but I do hope that it uses her well.
Of course, I am also a little bit of a fan of wiener dogs in general. That is, provided that we're talking about Dachshunds. A track near my house usually does an annual race between a variety of them called "Wiener Dog Races." This is fun, if nonsensical entertainment that runs in between horse races. Overall, it's a fun use of time and has made me sympathetic to them. I doubt that this is what the film is about. If it is, I'm all the more curious to check it out. Otherwise, the cast is strong enough that I am not entirely seeing a downside here. Fingers crossed that this goes better than worse.

- Dissection -

I'll admit that I understand if this movie doesn't interest any of the readers. It's very much one of those indie comedies that have an aloof sense of humor and doesn't follow conventions. However, I am very ecstatic by what I see and am curious to know if the film can deliver on its premise. The humor is abrupt and maybe jarring, but it does make me curious to know how these four stories intersect, and what the dog has to do with any of it. The cast is strong and the trailer even has a strange theme song already. Of course, we're talking about Sundance, where a farting corpse movie got plenty of attention and is looking to be among A24's bigger releases this summer. A dog connecting blind women to meth-chasing pals seems quaint by comparison.
I admit that another thing that I generally dislike is ensemble films. To me, there are few directors who get this right, and few that can make them into a cohesive narrative. I don't know if Wiener Dog is necessarily going to be an ensemble film in the traditional sense, but I do worry that it will not allow focus to any one of the stories, instead relying on weird eccentricities in place of character development. Still, that is something that the film has to prove to me. The trailer just has to get me through the door. Thankfully, it makes me want to see the movie, as even the cast is a lot bigger than I had initially understood. 
Most of all, I think that this will be more of a cult hit than a box office hit. I don't know much about Solondz's style, but there's definitely a sense that it will be more about finding ways to mislead the viewer than give direct answers. Maybe there's dysfunctional family archetypes here. Who knows. I just think that it draws a line between being off putting, and managing to be entertaining in a way that isn't common. I guess that I need to check out his other films before I can assess that. However, I would blindly go into this film based on the ad, though I don't know how enthusiastic I would be otherwise. It is a very odd story for sure.

 - One Sentence Sell -

An ensemble comedy that focuses on four stories in which a wiener dog joins eccentric forces together in unassuming ways.

- Trove or Trash -

As I mentioned earlier, this film is weird enough that I do believe that it might be worth a gander. If nothing else, the idea of a movie centered around a wiener dog does seem like a lot of fun.

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