Todd Solondz’s caustic view of the world hasn’t changed much in the 20 years since Welcome to the Dollhouse, but sometimes he can deliver just enough pitch-black humor to sweeten the despair. Here he follows a forlorn-looking dachshund through several owners: a boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke) recently recovered from illness; a film studies professor (Danny DeVito) whose own writing career is going nowhere; an elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn); and even Dollhouse’s own Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig) all grown up. Solondz has shown a tendency over the years to punish his unhappy characters, and there aren’t many happy endings to be found in these episodes, almost all of which are built around the perpetual threat of doom. But he can still nail a perversely funny bit of business like Burstyn’s character having a vision of young girls representing life paths not taken, or a brief intermission set to “The Ballad of Wiener-Dog.” It’s far from profound, but it’s memorably absurd. Your laugh vs. cringe vs. groan mileage most decidedly may vary.
Director: Todd Solondz
Producer: Megan Ellison, Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa
Cast: Keaton Cooke, Tracy Letts, Julie Delpy, Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Connor Long, Bridget Brown, Danny DeVito, Sharon Washington, Ellen Burstyn, Zosia Mamet, Michael Shaw and Melo Ludwig