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Taking Aim at Guns

Friday, October 7, 2005

"Dear Wendy" is an open love letter to the Great American Gun, one inked with irony from Danish filmmakers (and founders of the Dogma 95 movement) Lars von Trier, who wrote the script, and Thomas Vinterberg, who directed.

The letter's author comes in the form of Dick (Jamie Bell), the son of a mining family who has grown up as a self-styled pacifist; Wendy is the name he has given to a classic, pearl-handled revolver he found and to which he has formed a sort of curator's attachment. Dick only uses "her" for target practice, and he even forms a gun appreciation club with other pacifist-collectors called the Dandies. They dress up 19th-century-style, read up on gun history and exit wounds, and practice daily at an underground range. The Dandies endlessly discuss the size and feel of their weapons -- the protagonist's name is not arbitrary.

That's what undermines "Dear Wendy": It's a diatribe from beginning to end. When circumstances arise and the Dandies' guns are inevitably trained on real people, the scenario's practically straitjacketed in commentary. Von Trier's weak story doesn't help: At one point the goofy local sheriff (Bill Pullman), unaware of Dick's secret club, appoints Dick as mentor to an African American kid named Sebastian (Danso Gordon). Welcome, newest Dandy member! Sebastian, incidentally, is the grandson of Dick's longtime African American maid Clarabelle (Novella Nelson). We're asked to overlook the unlikelihood of a poor family hiring domestic help and mark it down as allegory from von Trier, whose film "Dogville" also placed America squarely in its scope.

-- Desson Thomson

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