The instruments with which Dear Wendy pontificates upon the American obsession with firearms are a group of unpopular teenagers calling themselves “Dandies,” and their “partners”: antique pistols named and carried secretly by their Dandy owners. As the Dandies gain self-confidence from their (we’re obliged to note) increasingly fetishistic rituals, Vinterberg chucks as many tones at the screen as possible: foreboding, tongue-in-cheek, nostalgic, swaggering — both together and separately. Dear Wendy is a mess, but, for the first half at least, it’s a good-natured mess with a Zombies-heavy soundtrack kicking it into gear when the momentum flags.
But screenwriter Lars von Trier (gulp) intends this as a lead-in to the lesson that the presence of guns leads inherently to violence (much as in Dogville the presence of a beautiful woman leads inherently to rape), and so the Dandies’ hometown is transformed into a pseudo-OK Corral for a climactic shootout (that nobody seems know for sure whether or not to play seriously) brought about by an illogical, arbitrary sequence of events contrived solely to shoehorn the film’s action into its thesis. As for the shootout, as the Dandies speak seductively to their partners before making heroically staged last stands? Six words: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Opens September 23 at Landmark Sunshine