Dear Wendy

SIX-GUN SALUTE The Dandies raise their pistols high.
SIX-GUN SALUTE The Dandies raise their pistols high.

Time Out says

Delivered as subtly as buckshot from a sawed-off .38, the antigun message of Thomas Vinterberg's Dear Wendy isn't the problem: Everyone knows that easy access to guns plus poverty and/or pathology can complicate the neighborhood block party. But the Danish director, along with screenwriter Lars von Trier, seems less interested in social issues than in perpetuating warped-America stereotypes laced with irony and strained black humor. People don't kill people, this shallow cousin of Von Trier's Dogville seems to say; Americans do. U.S.-bashing can be perfectly engaging, but having a redneck sheriff (Pullman) blithely tell a group of glum, troubled youths, "You're the kind of boys this country was built on" makes the film's crude allegory just laughable.

The tale begins as weakling loner Dick (Bell) befriends gun enthusiast Stevie (Mark Webber), and they form a secret society of vintage-pistol-fetishizing outsiders, calling themselves the Dandies. Solemn pacifists who nevertheless like to shoot stuff, the Dandies become unbalanced with the arrival of Sebastian (Danso Gordon), whose criminal past and loose morals lead the group into swaggering vigilantism. Thus, after a grandmotherly figure with a shotgun in her handbag blows a police deputy away, a showdown is not far behind.

What started as a quirky but sincere counterculture picture spirals into a pretentious, bathos-laden march toward stick-figure tragedy. Von Trier's appetite for bloody, morally portentous endings (not dissimilar from Hollywood shoot-'em-ups) barely carries a sadistic kick, since the characters have been so contemptuously sketched out. Next time, let's hope the Dogme95 brats pack more ammo. (Opens Fri; Angelika.)
—David Cote



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