Year Of The Dog Mike White

Year Of The Dog Mike White

When Peggy (Molly Shannon), a shy, cubicle-bound wallflower looses her new beagle puppy, Pencil, to toxic poisoning, the ripples spread across all aspects of her life, building to a tsunami-sized existential crisis. She starts asking questions about what impact her actions have and what’s important to her, including romance. Scriptwriter Mike White (School of Rock) writes and makes his directorial debut with Year of the Dog by opting for flat, low-key shots and performances. In deciding to undersell the dialogue, performances and visual style of the film, White may have ended up with too much of a good thing, leaving the audience cold and unmoved. He chooses to focus on the characters that would in most movies be peripheral; the characters are quirky but they are played earnestly and straight, with jokes delivered in subtle deadpan. The shooting style is flat and centred, with everyone surrounded by storybook versions of their lives. It’s like a Wes Anderson film (especially the cinematography and soundtrack) without the whimsy, or a Todd Solondz film without the squirming pathos. White wanted to keep the characters morally ambiguous but the emotional distance and lack of connection between them leaves the audience with a parade of flawed individuals with little to identify with. Even Peggy, the character we’re supposed to connect with the most, in the process of her breakdown/through behaves so erratically it becomes almost impossible to sympathise with her. That said, the film is chock full of excellent performances, particularly Shannon’s. The bonus features are comprehensive, focusing not only on the star and the director but even the dog trainers. Unfortunately, the commentary track is as flat as the film. The bonus features also make clear that all of the flaws were conscious decisions by Mike White, which may actually warrant some respect. (Paramount)