Dear Wendy (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The film begins with a young man writing a letter to his sweetheart, Wendy. He uses the tone of a soldier about to enter a battle which will likely take his life, and he recites the letter aloud, in the manner of the Civil War letters used by Ken Burns in his famous documentary.

What about his beloved Wendy? Turns out that "she" is actually his gun.

He belongs, you see, to an American gang of teens who are ... um ... "pacifist gun-lovers", and when I say love, I am not speaking figuratively. In addition to writing love letters to their weapons, they call the guns their "partners", they write sonnets to them, and they refer to "homicide" as "lovemaking." They truly love guns. I suppose their guns are extensions of their sexual organs. They also learn everything there is to know about guns and their impact: gauges, history, entry wounds, exit wounds, and other arcana.

It all takes place in a faux-American setting which has the feel of some kind of dreamy alternate universe. It is an imaginary small town which consists of bits and pieces of every part of American history from 1880 to the present. The gang has uniforms for their club and they are ... cowboy outfits. What else? Almost the entire film consists of hypothetical, off-the-wall voice-over narration and chit-chat between characters who are symbolic rather than real. When something finally does happen to interrupt the tedium, it is nearly the end of the film and things then go completely wrong. The club ends up participating in a crazy shoot-out choreographed to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

I know it sounds like I just made the whole thing up, but that's really what the film is about. As Dennis Miller once joked about something or another, "if it were any more obvious, Andrew Lloyd Webber would be writing a musical about it."

You may have guessed that the film was written by the ultimate naked emperor, Lars von Trier. As usual, Von Trier seems incapable of subtlety or nuance. Just about everything he has ever written takes place in some kind of alternate Bizarro World version of America, and his work is preachy, one-dimensional, arrogant, condescending, and usually just plain simple-minded. Those who have worked with him have suggested that his inability to express measured, thoughtful ideas is not a product of stupidity, but rather of extreme immaturity, perhaps even to the brink of insanity. Perhaps over that brink. Ben Gazzara, for one, confessed after making Dogville that he would never again work with an insane director. Whatever the cause of von Trier's psychological problems, the result is that he's the classic "true believer", and his particular true belief is that America is evil. Just think of him as the Danish bin Laden.

In typically subtle, nuanced fashion, von Trier told the press at the 2005 Cannes Festival:

"I feel there could just as well be American military in Denmark. We are a nation under influence and under a very bad influence... because Mr. Bush is an asshole and doing very idiotic things."

All passionate provocateurs obtain a following of some kind, and since anti-Americanism is by no means an obscure mindset, there are plenty of people who agree passionately with von Trier, and who therefore lionize his mediocre and/or pretentious filmmaking efforts. It is in our nature to ignore the faults of those who champion our ideas. I once had a conservative friend of mine remark to me, "Dan Quayle can't be that dumb. Why, I agree with everything he says!" On the other side of the ledger, there are other people who disagree just as passionately with von Trier, and thus offer criticism as unsubtle as von Trier's original ideas. That sort of polarization can be reflected in the IMDb ratings for this film. American voters score it 2.0 (worse than Ed Wood's worst film, and low enough to join the worst 20 films ever made), while non-American voters award 6.0 (kinda sorta OK). Like the truth about von Trier's career output, the truth about Dear Wendy lies somewhere in between those extreme positions. His career-best efforts (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) actually present his outlandish concepts in an interesting and original way, and are therefore very watchable films. In fact, Dancer in the Dark borders on genius as filmmaking, even though the ideas are as muddled as in his other films. Von Trier's worst efforts (Dogville) are just plain boring and dogmatic - outright propaganda lectures filled with inconsistent reasoning and an uncanny ignorance of normal human interaction.

Dear Wendy is one of his worst scripts, but the film is not without merit. Von Trier did not direct Dear Wendy, and that was a major positive in this case, because his fellow Dane, Thomas Vinterberg, created a luxurious, relaxed, fairy tale look which worked very well to enhance the symbolic characters and locations. Von Trier's gritty, tense, neo-realistic style would have undermined the parable. Between the provocative concept and the skill of Vinterberg, there might have been a good movie here, but it never showed up. Roger Ebert once wrote of Dogville, "There is potential in the concept of the film, but the execution had me tapping my wristwatch to see if it had stopped." Before the bizarre, over-the-top finale, that exact same comment could be applied to Dear Wendy.



  • Not yet available on commercial DVD



Alison Pill shows her breasts to the gang leader.

The Critics Vote ...

  • There are no major English language reviews on file

Miscellaneous ...

The People Vote ...

  • Box office results are not available. As I write this, the film has not yet been released in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-, a film which certain arty types will praise as rabidly as other passionate opponents condemn it. The truth is that only the premise is confrontational. The actual script is just mediocre and tedious.

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