Friday, May 04, 2007

Commercial Catch-Up: Year of the Dog

Though I intended to do a double feature today, including "Hot Fuzz", I was so effected by "Year of the Dog" (dir. Mike White, USA, 2007, 97 mins.) and Molly Shannon's performance that I decided to stop there. Molly Shannon plays a woman who is dealing with life after the death of her dog, an adorable beagle called 'Pencil'. The character arc that director and writer Mike White has given Shannon's character is extraordinary. She begins the tale as a meek, if not nearly invisible member of the world. She is the 'listener' to a range of characters, including Josh Pais, who delivers a performances as her long-term boss that is a Dilbert character come to life, and Laura Dern, as a self-absorbed mother of two, that is so satirical yet honest and believable, she treads a line between being hysterical and hateful. Dern literally took my breath away as each protective and politically correct move for the sake of her children became nearly monstrous. Regina King glows as Shannon's best friend at work, in a subplot that doesn't really give her anywhere to go, but her personality just lights up every scene she is in. Peter Sarsgaard appears as something of a love interest and he has never seemed more adorable! John C. Reilly also has an odd role as her nemesis. I can't explain it without giving away spoilers, but Reilly's character is possibly the most forced aspect of the film.

The film progresses through a series of dramas, comedies and a nearly creepy catharsis for Shannon's character. She is willing to deny any vanity, and facially allows herself to appear nearly corpse-like. Some of her more extreme scenarios seemed forced and manufactured. However, the film's resolution seems so logical and real that it validates the craziness that precedes it.

The cinematography by Tim Orr and the production design by Daniel Bradford are deceptively simple and straight forward. Yet the pastels and the head-on close ups only add to the frustration of Shannon's character. Speaking directly into the camera is subconsciously aggressive, in a world that is designed in pastels, is surreal yet disturbing.

It was an experience that had me choked up in the first 10 minutes, laughing in the next 10, gasping in disbelief and eventually feeling absolved of all the anxiety the film led me through. It was an unusually personal experience, and I loved it.

Maxxxxx says
re "Year of the Dog": "Belle! Belle!"