Wiener-dog (and Wiener-dog is the funniest movie of 2016, so far) is actually extra-textual - that is to say that the best joke in Weiner-dog is the film itself, and the fact that Todd Solondz has packaged and sold a Cute Pet Movie that doesn't just undermines all of the staples of that genre, it slaps and sodomizes them silly. My boyfriend heard an ad for Weiner-dog on NPR the other day that was selling this film as the adorable journey of an adorable puppy leaving a trail of kindness and love in its wake - I can only imagine what the poor simple folks looking for that sort of thing will think as the camera lovingly pans along a river of bloody diarrhea for a couple of minutes.I can only imagine, and I can only admire.
And that's only the first chapter -- the film is divided into four parts, the whole thing lovingly book-ended with Cancer jokes and euthanasia and I won't spoil it but the funniest series of sight gags, emphasis on gags, that your sickest of sick minds could muster. My mind flew back to watching Welcome to the Dollhouse for the first time while watching Wiener-dog - not just because Dawn Weiner makes her long-awaited and triumphant return, but because of the feeling the film gave me that I was in the gooey hands of a mad-man who might say or do anything at any moment, and it was exhilarating. As Julie Delpy rattled off her speech about Muhammad the squirrel-rapist I knew I was home again.
Naturally one's mileage with this sort of thing may vary! And it's not all hilariously nasty misanthropy saddled with comedic despair - if you've been paying attention to Solondz' film-making over his past several films you've seen him dabble in Magical Realism and, gasp, even an unsarcastic sweetness, and Wiener-dog's got all that going on too. I mean if you, like me, have spent even a portion of the past twenty years carving out a little niche inside your heart for Dawn Wiener then your heart-places might just about burst watching Greta Gerwig catch us up - it's the quietest quarter of the film and I think what happens in it might not matter as much to people who haven't been obsessives. But to those of us who care and know the signs and signals of what's being expressed, it's close to everything.