Aviva is thirteen, awkward and sensitive. Her mother Joyce is warm and loving, as is her father, Steve, a regular guy who does have a fierce temper from time to time. The film revolves around her family, friends and neighbors.
Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Stephen Adly Guirgis
Following an angry response from some audience members at the January 2016 Sundance premiere, a few festival reviewers purposefully spoiled the film in detail so as to deter animal lovers from seeing the film. See more »
OK, so if you didn't know any better and loved sentimental films about dogs you might be a tad disappointed. The quality that I always loved about Roger Ebert is that he always judged movies for what they are trying to accomplish, not what he wanted them to be. Todd Solondz is presenting an antidote to sentimentality. What is life really like? Well, hopefully not as bad as he shows, but then surely not as good as most of Hollywood presents. The film consists of episodes tied primarily by the presence of a dachshund. The four stages of life are there: Scene One revolves around an innocent boy who had already recovered from some medical extreme ("His hair has already started growing back..."). Scene Two begins when his parents give the dog to a vet to be "put to sleep" and his assistant rescues him and goes on a road trip that ends with a visit to a couple who both appear to have Downs Syndrome. There is then an old-fashioned intermission that shows a giant wiener-dog crossing a mythic America. Scene Three features Danny DeVito as a burned-out filmmaker, now a professor, still hoping for a Hollywood break. Scene Four is appropriately centered on old age: Ellen Burstyn as a woman at the end of her life, complete with a fantasy vision of what she might have been. As for the conclusion, just when you think it is as bleak as it could possibly be, Solondz one-ups himself with an even bleaker finale. Not for all tastes, for sure. Who likes to see all that can go wrong with life? I found myself over and over again experiencing those Chekhov moments: this is, after all, what life can really be like.
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