Todd Solondz’ Wiener-Dog is a series of vignettes about a dachshund’s revolving set of owners: a contentious couple (Tracy Letts, Julie Delpy) and their sensitive, cancer-survivor son (Keaton Nigel Cooke); a new version of awkward Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig) from Solondz’ breakout Welcome to the Dollhouse; a hack film professor (Danny DeVito); and a regretful old woman (Ellen Burstyn). Typical for a Solondz film, each character suffers occasionally ugly physical and emotional upheaval, with the dachshund serving – as dogs do – as a conduit to all the trauma. That connection is also represented through her changing names, ranging from the charmingly literal (“Wiener-Dog”) to the unnervingly symbolic (“Cancer”). While Solondz’ approach is off-putting, his characters’ indignities are not necessarily unusual (save for a few instances that manage an uncanny mix of mundane and extreme). It is a low-key effort, with plenty of incisive moments about what it means to be human that manage to be comforting despite, or somehow because, of the darkness.
I give Wiener-Dog 3 Bones.