Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dark Horse (d. Todd Solondz)

For a while, at least, Todd Solondz's Dark Horse does suggest something of a response/antidote to the oeuvres of Judd Apatow and Happy Madison in general and Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin specifically. Jason Alexander-esque Jordan Gelber is Abe, a thirtyish man who lives with his parents (an embalmed Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow) in his childhood bedroom and works for his father in a small office that does real estate business for strip malls. He drives a Hummer, listens to '80s music, and bids on "Thundercats" memorabilia when he's supposed to be filing reports. He abuses his status as the boss's son to cut out early and go to the movies--in an astonishingly meta moment, Solondz lets a few of those pre-show trivia slides play out in close-up--or Toys"R"Us, the logo of which is always cryptically blurred out. He pursues Miranda (Selma Blair), a pretty woman he met at a Jewish wedding, seemingly ill-prepared for his kamikaze bravado having any sort of positive effect on her. As it happens, having contracted Hepatitis B, she's considerably lowered her own marketplace value. (I love this as a rationale for the conventional hot chick/schlub pairing.) But although Dark Horse acknowledges, somewhat subversively, that a kind of manic depression has taken root in geeky Abe, Solondz is not so interested in exploring the societal forces that have conspired to make Abe a cultural stereotype and indeed a common iteration of the modern man. Instead, he gets caught up in a game of narrative rug-pulling straight out of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which finally allows him to string together a series of vignettes just as he's done, albeit with more cohesion, in his last couple of films. (I'm starting to think he can only write in terms of sketches.) Solondz has viewers so conditioned to his cruel ironies by now that most of this picture's were met by howls of approval at my TIFF screening, but the soul that saved Palindromes and Life During Wartime from disappearing into Solondz's navel is all but indiscernible here; two closing shots that should devastate us...don't, exactly, though they still manage to suck some air out of the room. **½/****
PROGRAMME: Special Presentations

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