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By Merle Bertrand | December 13, 1999

Ever have “The Don’ts?” It’s a condition that strikes when life has become either so overwhelming or so monumentally dull, that you just don’t want to do anything; hence “The Don’ts.” It happens to everyone from time to time. But for the five wildly underachieving friends in Brian Flemming’s wryly rueful nihilistic comedy “Hang your Dog in the Wind,” “The Don’ts” have become a permanent condition.
Bill and Tracy are a couple running on impulse power. Bill (Keythe Farley) is an anal, obsessive, self-described know-it-all a*****e who’s slowly going insane while Tracy (Astrid Santic) just seems to be along for the ride. Their plans to spend a quiet day in front of the TV get interrupted when they receive an unexpected visit from Steve and James. We don’t know much about Steve (Steve Wilcox) beyond his having an abnormal attachment to a pet rat left behind by a one night stand. As for James (David James), well, he’s bored. No matter what he’s doing. All the time. Enter Darlene (Derya Duval), Bill’s cute sister who’s moved to LA from New York and plans on staying with them until she can get a place of her own. It seems she’s always harbored a one-way crush on Steve…which makes things complicated when James falls for her. Or it would, if anyone cared enough to do anything about it. Only Nick (Nick Marshall) seems to be trying to break out of his rut. Okay, he lost his mind and lives in a trailer in the desert — he lists the return address only as “Mile 40” — where his visiting friends discover his penchant for Primal Scream Therapy and running around buck naked; (hence, I presume, the rather odd title). But at least he’s DOING something, anything, which, in this collection of moribund life plodders, instantly qualifies him as the life of the party.
Now, in a normal movie of this kind, the party’s desert pilgrimage would provide an excuse for deep soul-searching, complete with the requisite insights and breakthroughs found, well, only in movies of this kind. Thankfully, director Brian Flemming has refreshingly provided us with a film that mimics what would most likely happen if real people dropped everything to spend a few days in the desert. That is to say, not much. A few shifting romantic entanglements, a few half-hearted attempts at Deep Thought, but in the end, everyone pretty much just hops back in the car and returns to their normal, mundane existence. Yet, “Hang your Dog…” works precisely because having these characters behave any other way would have felt forced. The oddity is that something so UNdramatic is so entertaining. Part of this comes from the expectation of what you keep thinking is about to happen, but most of it comes from watching this collection of talented unknown actors chew up such amusing and authentic set pieces. We all should have such fun when afflicted with “The Don’ts.”

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