Dogme '95 cofounders Thomas Vinterberg (CELEBRATION) and Lars Von Trier (DANCER IN THE DARK, DOGVILLE) team up in DEAR WENDY, an unusual but entertaining drama set in an unnamed American small town. Jamie Bell, the award-winning actor who played … see full wiki
I don’t get it.
Dear Wendy is an epistolary movie—there is a pun here—where the letter is written to a pistol the owner named Wendy. Jamie Bell plays Wendy’s owner, Dick, who is the leader of a group of misfits, the Dandies. The Dandies are 5 people who find confidence in carrying guns, though never intending to use them. They also find fellowship together. The mix is sullied when a 6th member is asked to join basically by accident. From there, the little Utopia the Dandies build in an abandoned mine falls apart. When it falls apart, many people die.
Upon reflection on other of my reviews, I realize I use the word misfit often. Please permit a personal aside: I grew up as a misfit who spent the greatest part of his mature youth (teens-late twenties) as a pacifist punk mellowing only slightly with age. Therefore I seem to seek out misfits in fiction and film. As a Southerner and American, I am by nature drawn to the underdog anyway; add to that the misfit nature and I am supersensitive to the plight of the misfit.
Given that, a movie focused on a disaffected youth seeking to find any meaning at all should appeal to me deeply. Dear Wendy does not. Not even a little.
The theater cliché is that a gun in the first act always goes off in the third. In this case there is more than one gun, so there will be more than one bullet launched when in the climax.
The Dandies are pacifists who carry and are totally obsessed with handguns—not rifles, machine guns, shotguns, just handguns. In general, I see no problem with this. I know pacifists who are gun collectors, baseball card collectors who have never played baseball. The problem is that this is a film and, as the cliché states, if a gun shows up in the first act, someone is going down in one way or another in the third. Obviously, then, the story will focus on that disintegration from a pacifist club to what amounts to a homicidal/suicidal action to do something supremely silly: deliver a bag of coffee.
All events take place either in a place called Electric Park (a concrete version of any small town in any of a host of classic or cheesy westerns of yesteryear), or in the Dandy hideout in an abandoned part of the nearby mine. What I find utterly strange is the lack of people in Electric Park; also, the ones who are there are not hostile in any obvious way.
The reason this is so odd is that misfits, by simple dint of the word, do not fit in. In Electric Park, it seems that the Dandies’ misfitness is self-imposed. Each of the original 5 are different from their fellows, but there are few fellows and those fellows are not bullies. I have often wondered if misfits would exist in a world without bullies. Since I believe that the two groups stand in complete opposition, that one would not exist without the other; therefore the behavior of the Dandies makes little sense. Their environment does not support their perceptions. There is reference that one of the Dandies is beaten up in school, but we never see it, and never really see any bruises to prove it. There is also reference to gangs in the area, but no gang action of any kind (including tagging or other graffiti) shows up anywhere.
The gun that goes off to start the third act isn’t a Dandy handgun. Instead, the group decides that they need to help a longtime resident who is old, has dementia, and is frightened of the ‘gangs’ get across the Park to her relative’s house to deliver a bag of coffee. On the way the woman becomes frightened, pulls out a shotgun that no one knew she had and kills a policeman. All scatter and the Dandies, along with the woman, go to their sanctuary.
The cops destroy the sanctuary—what they call the Temple—while trying to find them. For no other reason than suicide, the gang decides they will deliver the bag of coffee themselves. Before the credits roll, the 5 original Dandies are dead and at least that many policemen.
I don’t get it.
Perhaps one more versed in the traditions of Hollywood westerns would understand it as either fitting or ironic. I can see that someone like Sam Peckinpah would make a film with as violent an ending, but his films got to their violent end logically. Either I lack the tools to understand the hidden imagery, or the imagery simply misses.
If their misfit status is self-imposed, then the violence exacted is not only out of proportion it is just cold blooded. Instead of underdogs, they are just killers.
Beyond this analysis, the story is basically silly and the presentation haphazard. For instance, Thomas Vinterberg, the director, introduces cartoon overlays very late so they seem like an afterthought. That just added a level of visual confusion that was completely unnecessary. The performances are not bad, but the actors have very poor materials upon which to draw their roles. The only notable thing here is that Jamie Bell, who is from the north of England, does an admirable job creating an American accent.
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