Length: 97 minutes
Director: Mike White
Writer: Mike White (The Good Girl; School of Rock)
Starring: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, Josh Pais, Thomas McCarthy
Molly Shannon’s performance in “Year of the Dog” is amazing. So amazing, in fact, that it makes the pain and suffering she endures throughout the movie actually work against it. You begin to care so much for her that you start to resent writer/director Mike White for putting her through all the torture she has to go through. White, who pulled a similarly nasty trick with his penned “The Good Girl” with Jennifer Aniston’s character, makes his directorial debut here. He is a gifted filmmaker, no doubt, and he creates some very funny moments in this film. Though, as much as it pains me to say it, his best effort as a writer was his most Hollywood- Richard Linklater’s Jack Black vehicle “School of Rock”. That movie mixed White’s style of humor without humiliating his poor characters to the point of making it painful for his audience to watch. Shannon plays Peggy. Peggy is a lonely office worker whose sole happiness in life is her dog- a beagle named Pencil. Her boss (Josh Pais) is an asshole who takes his insecurities out on her; her best friend (Regina King) is so selfish, she doesn’t even realize how lonely Peggy really is; her brother (Thomas McCarthy) is whipped by his wife (Laura Dern) who treats Peggy like one of her children. Peggy can’t even find a suitable partner- the one man interested in her is her redneck neighbor, Al (John C. Reilly- exceptionally hilarious here) who’d rather hunt an animal than have one as a pet. Pencil accidentally ingests some of Al’s lawn fertilizer and dies. Peggy is devastated and everyone is so wrapped up in themselves that they think she’s crazy for having so much emotion for a pet. She meets a really nice pet enthusiast named Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) who convinces her to adopt another pet. But, alas, even Newt isn’t what he seems and his true nature is soon revealed. See what I mean? White does a wonderful job of getting us to care deeply for Peggy and then cruelly puts her through the most horrible and embarrassing situations he can think of. After she meets Newt, she becomes a vegan and actively tries to find homes for abandoned animals- though her goodwill backfires constantly. Why would we want to watch someone we care about suffer so much? White tacks on a forced “happy” ending (much like he did with “The Good Girl” and “Chuck & Buck”) that is supposed to make everything okay. But when it’s all said and done, you have to wonder if Peggy’s life is going to be any better or if misery is still just waiting for her around the corner.
Download Soundtrack MP3:
Cat Stevens- I Love My Dog