When revealing a film’s ending is a public service


Michael Heaton is a columnist and occasional film critic for the Plain Dealer, my local newspaper. In yesterday’s paper he does what film critics are never supposed to do and that is reveal the ending of the film he had just seen. The film is called Wiener-Dog by writer-director Todd Solondz and the review, that begins with the ending, is as brutal as anything that I have read. Here is a small sample.

This isn’t just a movie review. This is a public service announcement.

Whether you’ve seen his earlier film, ”Happiness,” about a child molester, or just this one, director and writer Todd Solondz comes off as a hateful, twisted nincompoop who has nothing but contempt for his audience. I have nothing but contempt for him and this poisonous little piece of cinema.

After describing the general plot, he tells you the ending again and concludes:

It’s the final F-you from the director, in case the previous hour and a half wasn’t evidence enough that he hates you and anybody else who would be stupid enough to pay money to see another one of his ugly little mirthless and pathetic pastiches.

Judging by his work, Solondz is a loathsome filmmaker trying to pass as a purveyor of ”dark comedy.” I’m truly sorry for whatever childhood trauma produced this train wreck. But I feel no obligation to help him inflict his soul-killing psychological disease on the American moviegoing public.

Be warned. There’s nothing to see here.

In the comments to his review, Heaton gets savaged by some readers who see him as a philistine who does not appreciate art and is merely foisting his know-nothing opinion on us. But a review is not merely descriptive and is not meant to be neutral. A reviewer is always writing about their own reaction to art and has every right to praise or condemn it based on their own taste.

As for the advisability of revealing the ending, it depends. To do so gratuitously is wrong. Could he have simply panned the film sufficiently harshly without revealing the ending? Perhaps. But what I suspect is that he was completely blind-sided by an ending that enraged him and he wanted to ensure that no one else ran even the slightest risk of having the same experience and felt that he could not do so without dropping hints so strong that he would have effectively given away the ending anyway.

As someone who hates violence in general and in particular cannot stand to see animals treated badly in films or dying even when treated well, I thank Heaton for revealing this ending that convinced me to keep away from seeing a film that would have seriously upset me.

Comments

  1. says

    The art of critical reviewing is apparently not dead!? Seriously, I am sick of all the fluffer-pieces that pass as movie reviews. Someone who saw a movie and despised it? How refreshing!

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’ve never been as outraged by a dramatic film as when I saw a dog actually shot for a scene in a Turkish movie. It took a while to die. Of course, it was excused as ‘art’.

    And then there were all those horses in all those Westerns…but I didn’t really know much about that until long after I’d seen them.

  3. Menyambal says

    Thanks, Mano. That does sound like a truly awful movie. The review was a public service.

  4. hyphenman says

    Rob Grigjanis, No. 3

    At least in American movies, horses in westerns are no longer injured intentionally.

    Instead “stunt horses” are used that are trained to fall and roll. This came about in the early years of Hollywood when people discovered that trip wires were used to make the horses fall.

    If you can sit through the credits you’ll find a standard disclaimer staing words to the affect that “no animal was injured or harmed in the making of this movie.” Clearly, “Wiener-dog” was not made in the U.S.

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  5. Holms says

    In the comments to his review, Heaton gets savaged by some readers who see him as a philistine who does not appreciate art and is merely foisting his know-nothing opinion on us.

    Ugh yes I saw that in the comments and died a little inside. I absolutely loathe that approach to criticism, where all actual criticism needs to be set aside unless it is generally positive, because ‘art.’

  6. hyphenman says

    @Holms, No. 6,

    Yes. I agree.

    I couldn’t watch the ending of the remake of True Grit because of the horse that was ridden (not in real life, of course) to death.

    Having said that, I think we need to at least admit to the hypocrisy of anyone decrying the death of an innocent dachshund while people, like myself, have freezers full of beef, pork and poultry. Our relationship with the unnecessary slaughter of all animals is complicated.

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  7. Sam N says

    I might be genuinely interested in seeing the film, and was not put off by having that ending revealed–it seems like a reasonable thing for a review to do. If the movie is worth watching, it’s worth watching whether or not I know such a trivial twist. Seriously, dogs are fucking run down and killed every day. I know the end to No Country for Old Men, I still thought it was a fantastic film.

    Any movie that is entirely dependent on the plot points being a surprise to be enjoyed, clearly isn’t a good movie.

    BTW, I’m taken as a given that the weiner-dog wasn’t actually harmed. Given it would be completely unnecessary to do so, it’s fair to feel outraged at such an unnecessary graphic depiction for ‘art’, whether or not you consume animal products.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sam N @8: In full agreement. If a movie can be spoiled by revealing plot details, it’s not much of a movie.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    Any movie that is entirely dependent on the plot points being a surprise to be enjoyed, clearly isn’t a good movie

    True enough. I’ve watched “The Usual Suspects” many times, and obviously all but the first time I knew exactly where it was going – to me, it’s clearly a good movie. If anything, knowing exactly where it was going the second time enhanced my enjoyment. But not knowing the first time was a large part of why the second time was enjoyable – the second time through was a qualitatively different experience, because the first viewing was unspoiled and I was now able to see it from a different perspective. If I’d never had that first experience, a “spoiled” view of it would still have been good – the acting and script are great regardless – but I doubt I’d have returned to it. In general I have no time for people who spoil good movies. This one sounds like a turkey, though, and I doubt I’ll watch it even once.

  10. hyphenman says

    @ sonofrojblake, No. 11

    Usual Suspects and Seven are two of my all time favorite movies because I didn’t know where the plot was going the first time I watched. Like you, I have watched both films multiple times and pull a new aspect from the writing each time.

    On the other hand, The Sixth Sense was one of the worst written movies I’ve ever seen because I leaned over and whispered in my date’s ear “he’s already dead” less than five minutes into the movie. Once you know that, the whole movie is just lame.

    Why are the two movies different? Christopher McQuarrie kept me in suspense, M. Night Shyamalan did not.

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  11. sonofrojblake says

    The Sixth Sense is good… if you’ve never seen or heard of an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Or “Sunset Boulevard” for that matter. Unbreakable was much, much better.

  12. hyphenman says

    Mano,

    Let’s just say I learned an important lesson and bought a bigger dinner afterwards than I had originally planned on.

    Jeff

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