[Year of the Dog]

Last week (on impulse) I went to a free screening of Year of the Dog. I was a little wary, but it was written & directed by Mike White, and the cast included John C Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard, both of whom I have quite a fondness for.

And… I’m still not sure what I think about the movie. I’m torn between not wanting to recommend it and wanting everyone to see it so there can be a discussion.

I’m sure there are people who won’t like it because of marketing issues, but I didn’t see any trailers, so that doesn’t apply. There are others who expect certain things of Molly Shannon, but I love it when actors are given the opportunity to reinvent themselves, so that isn’t it either. I’ve seen two other movies written by Mike White (Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl) so I was expecting my embarrassment squick to take a hard hit, and I was prepared for things to be awkward and vaguely depressing. Finally, there have been concerns raised about how vegans are portrayed, and that might be valid, but I kind of think it could go either way.

None of these things are what bothers me. The thing that bothers me is that I don’t buy White’s conclusion.

I feel like we’re supposed to believe that Peggy’s going to be okay now? That she’s found her calling and will be happy in her new life as an animal activist? Before she leaves for the protest, we get shots of the cubicles of her co-workers, all living in tiny white boxes containing their interests, and that is actually kind of cool. I’m always saying we all have our interests & our obsessions, and just some of them are more socially acceptable than others (the most basic example being sports fans vs fanfic writers).

But. I just don’t believe it. She’s not shown making any sorts of friendships with the activists. Her passion for animals is meant to be not only the hobby that drives her, but also a substitute a romantic relationship, and also friends -and- family? It’s meant to be enough?

I just. don’t. believe it. I mean, I ADORE that there wasn’t an easy solution, that neither men she got involved with were the magical answer and relationship she was looking for, but I still don’t buy that she’s going to be okay.

I was struck by Reihan Salam’s post on the film in Andrew Sullivan’s blog this week. I hadn’t made it to any reviews yet, but I’m in agreement that Manohla Dargis’s summing up of Peggy as finding “her peace of mind, sense of self, grace”, that she contains “touch of the saint” and is “ridiculously, beautifully human”, well, it’s mind-blowing. I wonder if we saw the same movie. I’m much closer to Reihan: “Peggy is less ridiculously, beautifully human at the end of this movie than ridiculously, tragically alone and ridiculously, tragically crazy.”