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Twenty years on, and I’m still having trouble getting a bead on Todd Solondz. Wiener-Dog is not exactly a twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Welcome to the Dollhouse to accompany this weekend’s twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. Yet briefly, it totally is. One quarter of the movie’s dog-connected anthology follows Dawn Wiener, the awkward twelve-year-old played by Heather Matarazzo in Dollhouse, as a thirtysomething woman played by Greta Gerwig.
Close followers of Solondz’s work will not a discrepancy: We were told at the outset of his film Palindromes that Wiener gained a bunch of weight and killed herself. It was a non-grace note in a movie that wasn’t even about Dawn Wiener, but did have its main character (her cousin) played by eight different performers. Since that movie, he made one called Life During Wartime that is a direct sequel to the movie Happiness, except with every single character recast. In Dark Horse, Selma Blair quietly reprises a character she played in Storytelling who no longer looks or acts much like she did in the earlier film. The title of the Dawn-resurrecting Wiener-Dog is also the cruel nickname the character was given at school in Dollhouse, but here actually refers to an actual wiener-dog, who scampers through a series of owners, including Dawn Wiener.
So, again I ask: What the hell is going on with Todd Solondz? Does he think of his filmography as an ongoing, mutating art project, where recasting characters throws them into ever more fascinating contexts? Or do a lot of actors not want to work with him again? Does he compulsively revisit aspects of Dollhouse to tweak expectations about how his movies will compare to his still-biggest success? Or can he not leave well enough alone? And am I being a nerdy pedant for finding it kind of annoying, for not ginning up the interest to see Life During Wartime because I thought Happiness was great and had no desire to see a different rep company inhabit and sequelize those roles?
Continue reading WIENER-DOG inspires the bold question: Does Todd Solondz hate us?