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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good 'Year' For Shannon and White, October 10, 2007
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
Screenwriter Mike White's "Year of the Dog," which marks his directorial debut, was underappreciated during theatrical release last spring despite its being chockfull of wit, charm, intriguing characters and a fiercely original plot. Molly Shannon strays out of comedic bounds and nails the lead character of Peggy, proving she has a wealth of dramatic talent that has gone largely underused. Now on DVD, her performance is a grand revelation.

Peggy is a typical wallflower working in a typical office building as a typical secretary. In her early 40's, her social calendar is an arctic wilderness yet she is acquiescent, for her supreme pleasure in life is devotion to Pencil, her impossibly adorable pet beagle. Pencil dies in a needless accident, however, and Peggy is sent into a harrowing tailspin. The death of a house pet may not seem more like an unfortunate event than a grand trauma, but viewers with this mindset are in for a surprise - the realization of Pencil's death is most rattling, and Shannon is a marvel to watch as her ensuing devastation twists and jerks throughout the course of the movie affecting all aspects of her life.

No one is able to empathize with her sad state, which puts her at odds with the world. Her friend and co-worker Layla, a Type A personality portrayed by the incomparable Regina King, insists that Peggy pursue a romantic life, loosen up and "stop shacking up with dogs." Her brother Pier and sister-in-law Bret, played with [...]-retentive relish by Thomas McCarthey and Laura Dern, expect her to move on quickly and avoid saying "d-e-a-t-h" in front of their first-grader. Meanwhile, her self-involved boss Robin, played to archetypal tight-wound perfection by Josh Pais, expects an early Christmas bonus should ease her troubles. Her neighbor Al, played by the always reliable John C. Reilly, hardly offers her any comfort either - never mind that he may be indirectly responsible for Pencil's death.

Then a light suddenly shines on Peggy in the form Newt, an ASPCA volunteer played by Peter Sarsgaard. As a result of their interactions and commonalities Peggy begins to feel parts of herself humanized that had before been merely dismissed, and soon embarks on a long, arduous journey that tests her willpower and inner spirit, not to mention her values.

"I've always been disappointed by people. I've really only been able to count on my pets," she says. "But it's enough."

Many will chastise White's script and question if PETA helped fund "Year of the Dog" due to its uncompromising look at the early stages that result in beef stew on the family table (though it never gets graphic) and animal rights issues in general. However, there are definite checks and balances within the script, which tells a story not about animals but about how one woman's deep love for them puts her on a path of self-discovery.

"There are so many kinds of life in this life - so many things to love," says Peggy. "This is my love. It is mine."

The idea that the definition of love is different for all people certainly warrants a movie of its own, and "Year of the Dog" does it justice many times over. Will it burn up the Oscars? Probably not. Rent it anyway.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 1, 2007 8:57:40 PM PDT
I don't totally agree with your review, but your smooth and articulate synopsis and evaluations are very convincing. Great job! JP

Posted on Dec 14, 2007 7:29:56 AM PST
agilicairn says:
Thank you, Mr. Palma! I started to write a review, but you've already said what I would've said, and probably much better than I could have!

The overriding message of this movie is, indeed, as you say so eloquently, "The idea that the definition of love is different for all people."

While I am happy that the movie takes a look at the plight of animals, as you pointed out, the movie is about people. And wow, what a movie.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2007 9:40:53 AM PST
Rudy Palma says:
Thank you very much for your tremendous compliment.

I saw this movie alone - completely alone - the first time I saw it. No one was interested seeing it with me, and when I arrived at the theater, I was the only one there. It simply wasn't given a chance, but then again I suppose this isn't the kind of movie that really packs them in the aisles. I do feel like it missed its chances on the arthouse circuit though - it only lasted one week at my local arthouse cinema and I had to track it down to one place 15 minutes further down the road - and it left there one week later.

So I'm glad to see that you got a chance to see it and enjoyed it as much as I did. This is one of those movies that so many would appreciate if only they heard about it and picked it off the shelf.

It is definitely my absolute favorite movie of 2007, hands down. I have never seen any film more honest, beautiful and well-crafted than this one.

Cheers. :)
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