There’s a scene in Full Metal Jacket in which Matthew Modine’s Private Joker and his fellow soldiers-in-training are ordered to bestow their rifles with female names, a symbolic intertwining of violence and sex that spoke to the inherent carnality of war. If you can imagine that scene expanded to feature-length, performed by goofy young adults dressed in sub-Gangs of New York frippery, shot with staged theatricality, and possessed by a ludicrously asinine and illogical vision of America, you’d still only be half way toward truly understanding the dreadful, pedantic Dear Wendy. Thomas Vinterberg’s unintentionally hilarious misfire – scored, for reasons I don’t understand, to tunes by mid-‘60s rock group The Zombies – follows Dick (an abysmal Jamie Bell), a pacifist loser in an anonymous, parent-less town who falls in love with an archaic revolver he dubs Wendy. Made to feel confident and powerful by his new sidearm, he forms a secret gun club for similar pacifist outcasts called (I kid you not) The Dandies which stipulates that members study, respect and “marry” their firearms while prancing about their derelict clubhouse in costume like third-rate community theater actors.
Unsurprisingly given the didactic tone of this “critique,” the peace-loving Dandies soon find the lure of trigger-happy, Western-style violence too tempting to suppress. And as the film was written by Lars von Trier – who, having never visited the country, continues to imagine it as a place easily understood through schematically diagrammed locales mapped out via blueprint drawings – it’s no revelation to discover a daft portrait of the U.S. (and its racism and gun-worship) that’s wide of the mark. Still, von Trier’s ignorance can’t fully explain the sheer awfulness of Dear Wendy, which features Dick reading a love letter to Wendy as its god-awful narration, a caring African-American maid (Novella Nelson) who inexplicably transforms into a shotgun-wielding Alzheimer’s-inflicted psycho, a small-town sheriff (Bill Pullman) making Dick the unofficial parole officer for convicted murderer Sebastian (Danso Gordon), and the absurd audacity to depict, with a completely straight face, Sebastian’s use of Dick’s Wendy as a latent act of ammunition-tinged adultery. If it weren’t so consistently comical, Vinterberg’s latest would be one of the front-runners for worst film of the year.