Twenty-plus years after making Welcome to the Dollhouse, his seminal ode to teenage alienation and awkwardness, writer-director Todd Solondz returned to Sundance to premiere the latest entry in his canon of creepy-funny-demented stories, Wiener-Dog, in front of a packed, slightly horrified house at the Eccles Theater in Park City on Friday night.
A very loose and unofficial sequel to Dollhouse (that movie's tortured lead character, Dawn Wiener, is now grown up and played not by Heather Matarazzo but Sundance staple Greta Gerwig), Wiener-Dog follows the adventures of an oh-so-cute female dachshund named Doody (she's also named Cancer, later in the movie) throughout a series of vignettes that are sort-of-but-not-really connected at all.
Without spoiling too much, here's what we saw:
- A mom (Julie Delpy) explains the concept of cremation to her cancer-survivor son after he believes his wiener dog has been put to sleep. "They put you in an oven."
- A seemingly endless tracking shot of dog feces on the street that appears to be the after-effects of a nuclear burrito.
- A morose mariachi band member and hitchhiker declares that life in America is "so lonely" and you can "never lose enough weight."
- A drug-addicted a-hole (Kieran Culkin) tells his younger brother, who has Down syndrome, that their father died from drinking.
- A depressed New York screenwriter–film professor (Danny Devito) blows up his school with the aid of a bomb strapped to his wiener dog.
- A dying old woman (Ellen Burstyn) is visited by ten creepy little-girl ghosts of her former self, one of which is the version of herself had she been a better tipper.
- Said old woman discovers her wiener dog, Cancer, her only loving companion in life ... has ... well, that's probably enough for now.
Following the screening, Vulture asked Solondz how he had changed as a filmmaker over the last 20 years.
He said: "That's for the audience to decide."
One thing we know: He hasn't gotten boring.