Wiener-Dog, the latest from director Todd Solondz, brings together four stories loosely joined by the itinerant presence of a dachshund. It’s a blackly comic drama dealing with the issue of futility, with a cynical edge that Solondz fans will be familiar with.
The four stories, which share thematic elements but rarely characters, are well-observed and spiky in tone. We begin with a child in a dysfunctional household being given the titular dog as a gift, then move into three other narratives, probably the most successful of which involves Danny DeVito as a struggling and disillusioned screenwriter.
It’s one of those films that is well made and performed, sharply written and intermittently funny, but which never really comes together as a successful whole. Each story feels like it would work pretty well as a short, but put together like this, the film feels unable to settle on much of an idea or throughline beyond simply being cynical, or portraying disfunction. Those elements are periodically interesting, but the film ultimately left me a little cold. The first story, which includes the most barbed speech in the film, is unfortunately the weakest, leaving a vacuum that the rest of the film tries to fill.
There are, however, plenty of unexpected quirks to enjoy along the way, which I won’t spoil here, and some of the diversions the individual narratives take are rewarding and, on occasion, touching. I just wish the film as a whole had been as engaging. The dog, incidentally, is adorable.