Happy Families: Dogtooth

Posted in comedy, Cultural Mining, Family, Movies, Psychology, Sex by CulturalMining.com on October 2, 2009

dogtooth_10Dogtooth
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

Younger Brother is sitting. He is sitting on his bed. He is wearing his tennis clothes. Younger Brother likes to play. Father is bringing a stranger for Younger Brother to meet. She will teach him how to have sex. Younger brother may not tell this to Older Sister and Younger Sister. It is very unusual to have visitors come inside their fence. Father will bring her by car because no one can step on the ground outside the fence. Younger Brother must follow directions or Father will punish him. Mother is locked in her room. She is watching her secret TV tapes. Younger Sister and Older Sister are in the bathroom, learning new words today to improve their vocabulary…

Dogtooth is an unusual film from Greece, a fantasy about a control freak of a father who regards his three children as tabula rasa, to be filled with his ideas and no one else’s. And no one will ever contradict him since he keeps them isolated in a fenced-in compound with no outside contact of any kind. The twist is that the “kids” are adults now but still live as children, not realizing there is any other type of existence. The film shifts back and forth from the black humour of social satire to the pathos of a disturbing family drama. It leaves you with a strange, uneasy feeling.

lifeduringwartime_04Life During Wartime
Dir: Todd Solondz

Todd Solondz’s dark comedies alternate between two New Jersey families, the Weiners (Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995; Palindromes, 2004) and the Jordans (Happiness, 1998, Life During Wartime, 2009). The characters continue their depressing lives, while the actors who play them come and go. In this movie we join the three new Jordan sisters, ten years later.
Weepy, hippy Joy (Shirley Henderson) loves helping the needy, but this has landed her an unbearable fiance. He asks for her forgiveness for his latest transgression, so Joy seeks out her family for advice. Her mother Mona in Miami is no help, so she moves on to suburban Trish (Allison Janney) who is dating again. But Trish discovers her pedophile husband has been released from prison and is also seeking forgiveness. Sister Helen (Ally Sheedy), a Hollywood star, is bossy and self absorbed and not much help either. Poor Joy resorts to asking advice from ex-boyfriends from her past, like Andy (Paul Reubens).

The cast is as uniformly excellent as the story is relentlessly, painfully sad. Solondz is an expert at inflicting the unvarnished cruelty of family dynamics on his moviegoers. While there is nothing earth-shattering or different in this movie, it still holds its own as a funnily sympathetic (and pathetic) black comedy in his distinctive, ongoing saga.

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