How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (2000) - Synopsis

As L.A's most, if not only, successful playwright, Peter McGowan (Kenneth Branagh) has hit a creative dry spell. After a string of box office flops, his new play is set to open, but the script isn't finished. McGowan decides to workshop the production, and in the process has to navigate a minefield of egos, feuding actors, and showbiz politics, ever cynical of the schmooze and cruise scene his producer insists on dragging him into. With his producer and cast insisting the ten-year-old character in the play doesn't ring true, he is challenged to develop a "real" child and finds himself blocked.

At home, his wife Melanie (Robin Wright Penn), a children’s dance instructor, would like a child of her own, but Peter isn't ready; he has his play to complete and his art itself to resurrect. Besides, his perpetually confused mother-in-law (Lynn Redgrave) has moved in and dealing with her is yet another challenge. On a good day she recognizes Peter as someone who resembles her son-in-law; at other times she chats with him about her imminent death. Peter also realizes he is being stalked by a fan who thinks he’s the real Peter. He reaches the brink of insanity when the neighbor’s new dog starts barking in the night, exacerbating his insomnia.

When a recently separated woman and her young daughter Amy (Suzi Hofrichter) move next door, Melanie recognizes an opportunity to assuage her husband’s awkwardness with children. Peter sees an opportunity to use the little girl in order to craft "real" child for the play. Peter is eventually won over by Amy’s charm and his initial selfish intentions turn into genuine affection. But a falling out between Peter and Amy's overprotective mom, Trina, puts an end to their friendship.

How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog veers from cynicism to affection and back again on issues such as creativity, fame, impotence, homelessness and physical handicaps. At its core, Neighbor’s Dog is about the power of words how they are used creatively, deceptively and, at times, dangerously; and how seemingly innocuous statements can have dire consequences, as words often censured are harmless in the end when weighed against those used in haste and anger. And it is how words can be manipulated, bent and shaped to serve the purpose of the narrator employing them to tell a story.