Comments: Starring: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, Thomas McCarthy, Josh Pais.
Special Features include:
Commentary by Mike White and Molly Shannon; The Making of Year of the Dog; 3 Featurettes; Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel and more! English audio with Spanish subtitles.
Mike White has a knack for making you feel uncomfortable. After all, he did pen Chuck and Buck as well as several episodes of Freaks and Geeks (both bodies of work are highly underrated). His characters can be so awkward that I sometimes need to look away.
Shannon plays a lonely executive assistant whose life spins out of control due to the untimely death of her dog, Pencil. Pencil was her life and now she has no life. That is until a kind veterinarian (Sarsgaard) offers Shannon a new dog to adopt. Not only does she fall in love with the dog but with the vet as well.
Things get more and more, dare I say, creepy as she changes almost every aspect of her life to gain more commonalities with her fellow dog lover. Everything from becoming vegan (not because it’s a dietary choice) to sponsoring abused farm animals.
With a lack of emotional support from her brother (Thomas McCarthy), his wife (Dern), and her closest work friend (brilliantly played by Regina King), Shannon goes off the deep end.
Early on in the film you get the sense that eventually, we’ll see Shannon’s character come out on top and persevere, which isn’t to say that she doesn’t. It’s just that the character arch takes a strange direction that most won’t expect. I think that because of this strange direction, most people will feel as though they’ve been cheated. I know I did before I realized what the picture is all about.
Because this was White’s directorial debut, I feel like some aspects of the film were a bit forced. With that said, I do think this is a well written film with strong characters and an interesting story. On the other hand, being quirky for the sake of being quirky does work in some cases; just not this one.
Year of the Dog is for fans of Napoleon Dynamite (when it came out) and some of the John Hughes catalogue. Just don’t look too deeply into this film. It is what it is and that’s what makes it good.