Starring Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce
By the time you read this, “Roma” will have already won Best Foreign Language film at the 91st Academy Awards last month. “Dogman,” Italy’s submission for the race, won’t have even been nominated, and for good reason. Matteo Garrone, the visionary director of “Tale of Tales,” entirely misses the mark on this story that pits the wimp against the bully. The misstep is that the audience will find neither appealing. From visual extravagance to the squalor of the slums, “Dogman” is engaging, but for all the wrong reasons. Of all the films made in Italy last year, it’s unimaginable this was the best of what they had to choose from. It’s more likely Garrone’s notoriety, and the film’s inclusion at Cannes made it seem like the right choice. However, like many of the lead character’s decisions in the film, choosing “Dogman” to represent Italy was a stupid choice.
Marcello (Fonte) is one of the most well-liked business owners in his small seaside community in Italy. He owns a dog grooming and boarding shop called Dogman, where locals have their pets spruced up. Divorced, Marcello also has a daughter, whom he is entirely devoted to. Despite his good standing in the community, Marcello is also friends with Simoncino (Pesce), a local coke-head, mob muscle who pushes everyone around and takes whatever he wants. Marcello supplies him with coke, getting little else in return out of their friendship. The town plots to get rid of their menace, but Marcello is unwilling to do anything harmful to anyone. The understanding between Marcello and Simone dwindles, leaving the dog groomer accused of theft because he was unwilling to name the obvious culprit. One wrong decision after another ultimately leads to Marcello finding himself the second most hated person in the town and his good name ruined.
An insignificant entry into this year's foreign film race.
Marcello is Gollum personified. While the police interrogator calls him “dopey,” the audience hatred for this imbecile grows with every running minute. It doesn’t take long to reach the “zero-sympathy” factor, the point where you despise both characters and pray one will kill the other so this torturous film can end. It takes entirely too long, but eventually Marcello’s common sense kicks in and, by the end of the film, it seems we might have misjudged him. While it’s never expressed or made apparent, Marcello seems to have a mental disorder, the only rational explanation for his repeated stupidity. When Marcello returns to the town, now despised, the townspeople beg him to at least admit he is ashamed for his actions, but it’s unclear if he even understands what that means.
There is an element of unpredictability that beckons the viewer to keep watching. Will “Dogman” just end up this brutal, violent film where the town idiot finally makes his fatal decision, or will he snap and do what he should have done an hour ago? That’s the thread of engagement Garrone dangles in front of the audience to keep them watching. Fonte’s performance is all callowness. In one scene he accompanies Simone to a strip club after bashing in drug dealers skulls, where he ogles the beautiful women as if it’s just another Friday night. It’s unclear what Garrone wants the audience to take away from his picture–perhaps nothing. Perhaps it’s just his interpretation of a true story on which it is based. Either way, it’s an insignificant entry into this year’s foreign film race.
Visionary director Garrone suffers a mind-boggling misjudgment with his latest feature.