Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dear Wendy (Vinterberg, 2005)

Working from a script that Lars von Trier at least had the good sense not to direct himself, Thomas Vinterberg struggles over the entire course of Dear Wendy to arrive at something like a dramatic or thematic purpose. It’s clear that he and Trier -- who certainly should not get off scot-free -- are making an effort to say something about America’s culture of guns and the hypocrisy that exists when the world’s greatest nuclear threat bemoans the fact that other countries possess weapons of mass destruction. However, what that might be is lost in a grand muddle of coy insinuation that never stings because it never comes remotely close to settling on a distinct target. Yes, there are those in the world that give lip service to peace while simultaneously preparing for battle. This still does not change the fact that the central conceit of Dear Wendy, a pacifist gun-lovers club, never manages to come across as anything but goofy. Indeed, the film often calls to mind Trier’s Dogme effort, The Idiots, in which he was completely convinced that a group of people should come together to take a stand for something, but failed to successfully articulate to an audience just what that was. And like that film, even the actors seem unsure of themselves and what they are fighting for. It doesn’t help matters that all of this is filtered through Vinterberg who, based on the three films of his that I have now seen, still seems to be searching for a filmmaking style to call his own. After the brilliant film, The Celebration, Vinterberg has fired off two turkeys in a row (It’s All About Love being the other), though in each he has teased with flashes of greatness. There are some nice honest acting moments coaxed from the young cast and on-screen graphics used during the climactic gun battle hint at a film that could have been. With Dear Wendy, Vinterberg fails to establish the rules of his fictional universe, fails to provide his protagonist with a clearly defined journey and fails to settle upon a coherent political stance.

I’m sure I’m not the first reviewer to say so, but Dear Wendy is a hugely disappointing 'misfire'.



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