Welcome to the Film Cannon, a place to find reviews for movies that due to age or advertising, never popped up on your radar.
Without further ado, let’s go to the first review, Mike White’s “Year of the Dog.”
Sometimes in life, we let our loves get the best of us and turn us from passionate and focused individuals to obsessive and overbearing zealots no one wants to be around. I’ve been there and thankfully, my friends and family didn’t get rid of me in a moment of exasperation.
Such a negative transformation befalls Peggy (Molly Shannon), a dog lover with a beagle named Pencil, in “Year of the Dog,” written and directed by Mike White.
Peggy’s happy in a surfacy kind of way, with her faithful boyfriend-substitute by her side, friends, family and co-workers she gets along with, and a good job that pays the bills. There’s nothing wrong with her life, but something’s not quite right either. And after a lapse in judgment from a sleepy Peggy, Pencil stays out all night and ends up dead, and her life goes from not quite right to totally off-kilter.
Peggy is crushed by Pencil’s death, but she takes in a special-needs German Sheppard on the recommendation of Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), another passionate about animals and animal rights because he can’t connect with humans. And here we get to meet the real Peggy, who’s not so nice and is willing to break all the rules for a cause she believes in.
Her downward spiral begins innocently enough; she becomes a vegan (nothing wrong there), begins preaching to her co-workers about the evils of animal products (a little grey) and then foisting endangered dogs on her friends and co-workers who aren’t ready for the responsibility but want to make her happy (or possibly just want her to shut her up). She goes so far into her obsession that she forges checks from her boss to animal-rights organizations and adopts 15 dogs at one time to save them from euthanasia.
It’s quite a transformation; Shannon goes from a chipper person to an utterly joyless and obsessive bleeding heart in about an hour, but she manages to make the audience still care about her during her journey and after it’s over. Peggy alienates every person around her with her new focus, but even at her worst, Shannon make us keep rooting for her.
After all, she’s just seeking what we all seek, a definition, something to give our lives meaning, to make a mark on the big picture. Kudos to White for taking an obvious setup (lonely woman loses dog, meets a man, cue the traditional wedding music) and making something unique. Peggy is a big-hearted freak (in the best use of the term), and in a rare move, she stays true to that part of her and finds happiness being her freaky self. You go girl.