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Sleeping Dogs Lie

As we learned last week in this Comedy & Laffs Marathon, Bobcat Goldthwait directed SHAKES THE CLOWN in 1991, then sort of disappeared from the movie world. He was still doing shit, like touring as the opening act for Nirvana and getting in trouble for lighting Jay Leno’s set on fire (as most comedians were doing in the ’90s, if I remember right). But he stayed away from directing until he started doing TV shows in the 2000s.

SLEEPING DOGS LIE (2006) started out as a script he wrote but knew nobody else would ever make. So his wife convinced him to take the plunge into no budget independent filmmaking. He literally hired the crew on Craigslist. (That’s why he wasn’t making movies in the ’90s – he would’ve had to use AOL or Prodigy or something.) Luckily the movie got into Sundance, got him some respect and now this is what he does is write scripts nobody else would ever make and then make them.

Here’s why he knew nobody else would make it: it’s a deeply-felt relationship dramedy entirely revolving around the lead character (Melinda Page Hamilton) having once given her dog a blowjob. I know, but hear me out. It happens in the opening scene. She’s home alone, reading a book, probly had a couple glasses of wine, the dog is laying there, she gets a mischievous look on her face…

ah, shit. I can’t explain it. There is no rational justification. But she does it. (Off screen, thank the Lord.)

Now it’s years later. She would never do it again. She’s happily engaged. To a human man (Bryce Johnson, BRING IT ON AGAIN). And they start talking about the freakiest things they ever did. So it’s a movie that questions and explores the ideal of Total Honesty In Relationships. Which is better, for her to not have any secrets from him, or for him to not have to think about his fiancee sucking a dog’s dick?

For a while it’s kind of a MEET THE PARENTS with bestiality. They go stay with her mom and dad (Geoff Pierson and Bonita Friedericy) and your discomfort sympathies shift to the boyfriend. He keeps embarrassing himself and getting the cold shoulder from Dad, who gets the dynamic started with “I’m not naive, I know you’re having sex, but while you’re here you’ll be sleeping in separate rooms.” Always a good icebreaker. The movie becomes just as much about her relationships with her parents and her meth-smoking asshole brother (Jack Plotnick) – the secrets they keep from each other, the illusions they have about each other.

One strength it has that many independent movies don’t is that the cast of all no-names is excellent. This Bryce Johnson guy must rue the day he first heard the name “Armie Hammer,” because he’s a similar tall-handsome-charismatic-but-down-to-earth type but at least so far hasn’t had the same luck getting big roles. (On the other hand Hammer never got to film the movie where he was gonna play Batman, Johnson did get to do the voice of Aquaman in a video game. Point: Johnson!)

But Hamilton is the real find here. The scene where she SPOILER admits what she did and then pathetically tries to play it off like she was just kidding must’ve been ridiculously hard to pull off, but these two get it exactly right. Just excruciating and heartbreaking. You’ll find out what it feels like when your heart cringes. An incredible scene.

One thing that’s ingenious about the story is that the idea of it is so disgusting, you (or at least I – I’m not sure what you guys are into) have the same visceral reaction to her secret that her boyfriend and family do. They don’t show it at all but you keep picturing it and it’s disgusting and you try to reconcile it with this nice girl. We’ve known this about her from scene 1, and we’ve built up sympathy for her anyway, but we don’t like thinking about it any more than the other characters do.

Another good thing about it: whatever horrible thing you have in your past that makes you relate to this movie, unless you’re a killer or a raper it’s probly not as embarrassing as this. Might be worse, but probly not as embarrassing.

I would think this was one of those movies where they came up with the concept and title together, except they didn’t – it was originally called STAY. Who would’ve thought there’d be two perfect double entendre titles for a dog-sex relationship drama? I guess the original is the more subtle bestiality pun.

I’ve known about this movie for years and was sort of interested to see how Goldthwait would approach the outrageous premise, but I have to say it’s a much better movie than I ever would’ve imagined. Maybe I’m just in a weird place, but I found it genuinely moving at the end.

(note: that is not saying I relate to any of this dog stuff. I don’t have pets and don’t believe in bestiality, I think it’s unethical and gross in my opinion. Not to get too preachy but try to stay away from it everybody.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 9:03 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Sleeping Dogs Lie”

  1. Sounds more enlightening than that fucking ZOO movie.

  2. I really liked this movie. It turned me on to Bobcat as a director and writer. It handled everything so well that I was just amazed when it ended and I was still emotionally involved with the characters. (Not the dog)

    In a way, this film makes me think that Goldthwait’s films are really reminiscent of Louie CK’s show. He is doing something unique and meaningful to himself, and if you like it then that is cool. But he is doing it on a budget that means he can do anything. Plus, it is scatalogical while also being cathartic. That’s a tough mix to pull off.

  3. After being totally blown away by Lucky McKee’s The Woman this weekend, I realized that there are not a ton of movies that are unpredictable and truly fearless and also give you something to think about. Martyrs would be another one. In a totally different way than those two, it sounds like this dog-blowing film has the potential to meet those criteria as well. I’ll check it out!

  4. Dan Savage pretty much nailed it when he dealt with this scenario (2nd letter):

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=22339

  5. That seems a lot more judgmental, dismissive, and unhelpful than most of Savage’s columns. Maybe he was in a bad mood that day?

  6. Majestyk:

    You’re talking about situations involving people that need a smack upside the head, not a shoulder to cry on: they are acting like choices and things they did just happened to them without their involvement. You need to take responsibility for your kinks. It’s a sex-positive message he’s making by laying the law down on these kinksters. Because acting like your kink is some weird alien taking over your body: that is shame talking, that is sex-negative. Own your kink, be yourself honestly, or succumb to personal weakness, and open a doorway to all manner of societal ills.

  7. It seems that bestiality is big this days, or how else to explain the sucess of AVATAR, in which so many people found so romantic the relationship between a human and a big blue cat shaped alien and turned it into the most sucessful movie ever made. And how a few years before we had the remake of KING KONG, the romantic story between a giant ape and a human woman? I think beastiality is big this days.

  8. Baraka: I get you, but usually he consults an expert on the matter who will give some advice on the medical repercussions of whatever the issue is, as well as some advice on how to deal with it. Yeah, he’s snarking thse people into taking responsibility for their kinks, but he’s also not telling them anything helpful. These are issues they don’t understand, and all he’s saying is “You’re fuck up, dog-fucker. Accept it.” Now they’re most likely going to think “Well, if even Dan Savage thinks I’m fucked up, there’s probably no hope for me.” And deeper down the shame spiral they go. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever felt his column was going for a cheap joke over taking the person’s problem seriously.

  9. Dan Savage is an asshole.

  10. Majestyk: you have a good point, to continue arguing with you would be pedantic.

    I am biased because I wrote a letter to Savage a long time ago and he actually answered it and published it.

    It wasn’t bestiality related. I liked the answer too, he put a lot of thought into it. I admire Savage a lot, especially the whole Santorum episode, which got a second life a few months ago, hilariously.

  11. I like Savage too. I was only criticizing him because I felt like it was an uncharacteristically out-of-patience response.

    Also, I hope that really is Ralph Nader. I like to think that he once wrote Savage a letter signed Needs Anal Diddling Extra Regularly and Savage ignored him.

  12. Mr. Majestyk, I believe anal diddling is now refered to as Nadering.

  13. doesn’t everyone have something perverted that they’ve done that they would never admit to?

    I have a few things (nothing involving animals though)

  14. caruso_stalker217

    July 2nd, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I fucked an apple once.

  15. Caruso, if that’s what you admit to, I shudder at the thought of what you don’t.

  16. A few other working titles:

    Throw me a Bone
    Dog Day Afternoon
    Girl Eat Dog World
    Screwed the Pooch

  17. It’s the last day for this movie on Netflix Instant (for now) – so I had to watch it. And it’s great. Strong acting, well-written characters, and its somewhat shapeless plot (the secret gets revealed about 1/3 of the way through) ends up being a big asset – you have no idea where the movie is going and it certainly didn’t end the way I thought it would.

    SPOILER – I think the character of the “new” boyfriend is kind of ingenious. At first look, he looks like that skeezy faux-sensitive “friend” character who’s going to try to get into the main character’s pants and get rebuffed. We already fill in the blanks where the story’s going. But he actually starts being charming and funny (notice how he switches out the origami with some pre-made origami from his pocket), and the first boyfriend, who we liked so much and sympathized with earlier, ends up doing and saying some heinous (but understandable) things that we suddenly can’t sympathize with. (Or can if we’re honest with ourselves) By the end of the film we’ve switched out co-protagonists, and didn’t even notice it.

    I also do like how Goldthwait does keep certain things about him ambiguous – it’s hinted (at least to me) that he fakes his breakup with his wife/lies about catching her cheating, yet our main character never knows about it and never asks. The “happy” ending we see at the end may be built on more than one lie, but I guess their ignorance/bliss is the only thing that matters. It’s a great ending.

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