Dear Wendy

on September 23, 2005 by Francesca Dinglasan
Boys and their toys take center stage in "Dear Wendy," an improbable tale of misfits who gain soaring confidence through the presence of their beloved guns. Probably intended to be viewed more as a prolonged metaphor than a realistic narrative, the film is an interrogation of the cultural fascination with the deadly weapons as well as the concept of courage gained through gun ownership.

Dick (Jamie Bell) is an introverted loner who doesn't quite fit in with the tough mining-town environment he grows up in. His only real companion is longtime family caretaker Clarabelle (Novella Nelson), who wants to protect her sweet boy from the harsh life of the mines. Friendship arrives for Dick, however, in the unexpected form of a toy gun that turns out to be real. Falling in love with the pistol, which he names "Wendy" out of affection, Dick discovers that his grocery store coworker Stevie (Mark Webber) is also a gun aficionado. More than that, Stevie's quite the encyclopedia of knowledge on the weapon. The two decide to form a group comprised of other town outsiders, including Susan (Alison Pill), who sold the pistol to Dick; the constantly bullied Freddie (Michael Angarano); and his physically impaired brother Huey (Chris Owen). The gang names themselves the Dandies. Each member is passionate about his or her gun, learning everything they can about the dynamics of the weapon and mastering the art of shooting through ritualistic target practices at their underground club house in an abandoned mine. The twist is that the Dandies consider themselves pacifists, whose obsession is the gun itself, not the harm it is capable of causing.

Of course, when the Dandies promise that they will never brandish their weapons against another human being, the rest of "Dear Wendy's" plot unfurls accordingly. In one of the most illogical denouements to hit the big screen in quite some time, the Dandies, along with their latest member Sebastian (Danso Gordon), dream up a plot to escort an older Clarabelle (who is also Sebastian's grandmother) across town to help her overcome the agoraphobia she's developed in her senior years. This event somehow sets off a Wild West-style shootout between the gang and the local police force led by Krugsby (Bill Pullman), a kindhearted cop who has tried to look out for Dick.

Scripter Lars Von Trier has been chastised for his blatant skewering of American values, and "Dear Wendy" certainly won't do anything to deter his critics. Although issues of gun control are rich for debate and onscreen depiction, Von Trier's willingness to reject a rational storyline in favor of an overpowering finale to prove a point smacks of didacticism.

The film's highlight is the young cast's plausible turns, with the playful interactions among them proving particularly appealing. Their ensemble performances, however, can't even begin to approach remedying the nonsensical shortcomings of "Dear Wendy." Starring Jamie Bell, Bill Pullman, Michael Angarano, Danso Gordon, Novella Nelson, Chris Owen, Alison Pill and Mark Webber. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Written by Lars von Trier. Produced by Sisse Graum Jorgensen. A Wellspring release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 100 min

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