Year of the Dog (PG)

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Mike White, with a decent CV of screenplays to his name (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Nacho Libre) debuts as a director with this oddball comedy about a lonely, dog-loving secretary, Peggy (played, with unsettling intensity, by Molly Shannon). When her beloved pet pooch dies, Peggy's world goes into a tailspin; she tries to right herself by becoming a vegan, an anti-fur fanatic, and an indiscriminate rescuer of stray dogs.

More than once we suspect that Peggy might be going mad. Her sister-in-law (Laura Dern) certainly thinks so. White keeps us guessing, but he pursues his heroine into a corner from which she cannot plausibly escape. Shannon seizes her lead role with alacrity, but the comedy isn't the heartwarmer it wants to be; it's merely sad.