Without a doubt, Trainwreck, starring comedy superstar Amy Schumer and directed by maestro Judd Apatow, is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. However, what people don't know is that the movie-within-the-movie featured in Trainwreck called The Dogwalker, starring Daniel Radcliffe, is making waves of its own. The film may just be a silly work of fiction, meant to entertain audiences during a scene in which Amy (Schumer) and Steven (John Cena) go to the movies, but as all those who saw it know, it's so, so much more than that.
Although viewers only get to see a small portion of the movie, it's clear that The Dogwalker is nothing less than a classic of the indie-drama genre. Said to have premiered to rave reviews at Sundance, the film is a low-budget but quite serious work starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei about a dog walker (Radcliffe) and the dog's owner (Tomei). If you hadn't heard of it before Trainwreck, don't worry — it was so elite that it never even reached the pages of Variety, The Hollywood Reporter or Deadline. Hollywood tastemakers were adamant on keeping this Oscar-worthy film as exclusive as possible, not even sending it out to theaters for distribution.
It wasn't until Schumer and Apatow decided to break the rules and include it in Trainwreck that non-festival attendees got to see it for themselves. It's clear how the comedy duo got hold of the film, but they must have managed to score a deal with the elusive filmmaker who refuses to be credited with the masterpiece (I'm thinking it's classic Noah Baumbach, but it does have a hint of Woody Allen). They kept the use of the film under wraps and even staged re-enactments of The Dogwalker in Bryant Park as a decoy, as if it were part of Trainwreck, not the real movie it is. Ingenious!
As one of the people who was lucky to see The Dogwalker, I can assure you that the secrecy was well worth it. "Loved it" is an understatement. Splashed with the quiet despair and subtlety of a Truffaut black and white opus, The Dog Walker refuses to give its characters names, instead labeling them with strong, poignant identities like "The Dog Owner." While walking numerous dogs chained to him through the wilds of Manhattan (a succinct and clever metaphor for chaos and control), the Walker (Radcliffe) encounters the Owner (Tomei) in Bryant Park. They begin a discourse about canines, and the need for them to be walked and cared for regularly. Their dialogue can be mistaken as rambling, but in this context, it is Altman-esque. It's revolutionary. It's a meditation and metaphor on the state of the working man and the value of human existence.
At one point in the movie, the Owner says, "Everyone’s left a dog in a hot car at some point in their lives," to which the Walker responds, “I don’t think that’s true.” It's at that moment that movie immediately falls deep into a trance of self reflection, giving both Radcliffe and Tomei the ammunition they need to lock in a Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
What gives the poetic lines in The Dog Walker more poignant depth is the fact that 100 percent of this movie was improvised by Radcliffe and Tomei. I wouldn't be surprised if Tomei wasn't even cast in this movie, and she just happened to be in Bryant Park with her dog while they were filming Radcliffe's scene. The dialogue is just so natural, so real, so like lightning in a bottle, that it's hard to believe it could be anything but the result of a chance meeting between the actors.
The Dogwalker is one of those rare cinematic instances where the stars align and magic happens effortlessly. In my opinion, it is guaranteed to be considered one of the year's best films, a true masterpiece of modern cinema. It may never reach theaters in the United States, but perhaps it will eventually be released online or internationally... or you can just catch glimpses of it in Trainwreck.
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