One of the best and most memorable scenes in The Jerk is when Steve Martin’s Nevin is packing up and making a big, dramatic exit from the lavious life he’s built up for himself over the course of the story. He selects, as he’s leaving, just a few items that he sees as essential. An ashtray, a paddle game, a lamp, a few other items and, of course his dog. The dog, though, has other ideas and growls at him, leading him to declare that no, he doesn’t need his dog.
Dogs, though, are usually seen not only as loyal companions but also bringers of comfort and joy. That’s the premise of Wiener-Dog, the new movie from writer/director Todd Solondz. The movie is basically about a dog that winds up being moved from person to person across the country, impacting the lives of those it comes into contact with. In addition to the titular canine, the movie stars Greta Gerwig, Ellen Burstyn, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy and more as the people whose stories will intersect with that of the dog over the course of the story.
If the backend of a dachshund is the kind of thing that makes you want to see a movie the first poster will be right up your alley since that’s the only visual here. Outside of a dog butt and hind legs we get the title treatment, Solondz’s previous credits and the cast list. Simple but to the point: This movie is about a dog.
The first and only trailer introduces us to the characters that will come in contact with the titular dog and gives us brief introductions to them and the people around them. We don’t get a lot of exposition or anything, just general snapshots about their situations, but we do get some great shots of the dog.
I’m not sure what movie this is trying to sell, but it’s clear it’s not going to appeal to any mass audience. I think it looks like it might be darkly hilarious but 98% of the population is going to not know what to do with this. That’s alright, though.
Online and Social
The Tumblr-based website is pretty simple, just showing off a bunch of posts that have videos, promotional images featuring quotes from the movie and more. The only sections that are listed are “About,” where you can read a brief synopsis, and a prompt to watch the trailer.
You’ll find pretty much the same images and content on the movie’s Facebook page. There weren’t standalone Twitter or Instagram profiles for the film so it just became part of IFC’s primary accounts.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve seen. This is a pretty small, niche-interest movie so that’s not surprising.
Media and Publicity
The film debuted to mixed reviews at Sundance 2016, with some people calling it difficult but important and others saying it was an unpleasant mess. While it was there Solondz talked about the story and its inspirations as well as his career and the entertainment landscape as well. Gerwig also talked about the film and working with Solondz. The film was soon picked up by Amazon, who agreed to distribute online and find a partner for theatrical release.
It’s a decent little campaign for a movie that seems to have extremely limited appeal. Not only does Solondz have a small but largely dedicated audience but it doesn’t look like it will be able to count on the kind of word of mouth from that dedicated audience that previous movies from the writer/director have. That means it will have to rely on the actual campaign to reach an audience that hasn’t been negatively influenced by the festival reactions that have been less than enthusiastic.
That campaign is…alright. It’s not going to blow anyone’s socks off but it sells the movie as kind of a quirky, more or less gentle dark comedy that is certainly offbeat but isn’t outright offensive. It’s clear that the dog is the central character throughout the various stories but it doesn’t offer much in the way of details, either about the people it travels between or how it moves from one setting to the next. It’s clear that the movie is a series of vignettes, so your desire to see the movie will be based largely on your awareness of Solondz, whether or not you were influenced by the word of mouth and if you like these sort of slightly connected travelogues.