For his directorial debut, Mike White chose to make a movie (based on his own original screenplay) that’s a treatise about loneliness and people who have love but can’t find a place to put it. Like many of the characters in White’s previous scripts (to name a notable few: Chuck and Buck, School of Rock, Orange County, three episodes of Freaks and Geeks, and one of my all-time favorite films, The Good Girl), Year of the Dog‘s Peggy (played by Molly Shannon) doesn’t quite have a sense of herself; her strong feelings and opinions locate her a little outside of the mainstream. The thing is, the people in the orbit of her life who don’t get her, whose eyebrows and judgment she raises, are no less idiosyncratic.
Following the surprising but inevitable course that Peggy’s life takes, Shannon is excellent, as is the rest of the cast, with the ever-dependable John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Pais particularly outstanding.
As exemplified by a user comment at IMDb, the film is far from the chick flick that its plot and advertising suggests: ” I thought I was going to see a funny movie. I came home feeling suicidal. If I wanted to see a pathetic over-40 woman who has bad dates and lives alone with the pets she dotes on too much, I woulda stayed home and stared in the mirror!” Year of the Dog — the chick flick from hell?
Regardless, by movie’s end, as in all of White’s work, he manages to humanize his offbeat characters so that we, too, can understand and perhaps even identify with them — if we hadn’t already all along.