Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Dark Horse

Portrait of the Loser as a Young Chub should be the subtitle of Todd Solondz’s latest attack against normalcy.

June 6, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1344458-Dark_Horse_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There are total losers walking the Earth, and then there is Abe (Jordan Gelber): fat, socially inept, possessed of an unhealthily negative attitude towards the world and living with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow). He meets Miranda (Selma Blair), who just may be the perfect mate for this desperately lonely, unhappy soul, as she also never left home and is terminally depressed about her failed relationship and life.

Ah, how Todd Solondz loves the disenfranchised! In many ways, Abe is his ultimate creation, even if Dark Horse is a departure from the multi-character works which have made the director’s reputation. Abe’s very hopelessness fuels the movie, and it’s often puckishly amusing to see him completely slack off on the job (which he can do, as Daddy’s his boss), cadge cash from Mom, and go about his mind-numbing days, trying to return an action figure he’s bought for his collection to a snippy store clerk and rage against his more successful brother (Justin Bartha), a doctor, who is bewildered as all he’s ever tried to do is be there for him. His courtship of Miranda is so inept that it makes Ernest Borgnine’s Marty look like Charles Boyer at his suavest. Unfortunately, after a while, as his character shows no signs of development, we lose the fascination he holds for Solondz and the film becomes rather aimless.

There are any number of wryly amusing scenes to pass the time, however, and Solondz has been particularly well-served by a nicely chosen cast. Gelber is utterly convincing and the fact that you don’t entirely despise Abe and indeed almost root for him must be considered a major acting accomplishment. Blair is pretty terrific within the sad constraints of her role and delivers her defining credo with deadpan hilarity: “I gave up my dreams for a literary career, hope, independence. I should just get married and have children.”

Donna Murphy, who has truly sparkled on the Broadway stage in musicals, finally gets a juicy—if small—movie role to sink her choppers into, as Abe’s secretary who always, weirdly, has his back, and a colorful secret identity to boot. She brings some stylish wit to the proceedings which momentarily lifts it out of its calculated doldrums. Walken is—big surprise—weird as Abe’s father, while Farrow, after all those years with Woody Allen, has become quite expert at playing querulous, suffocating Jewish matrons. Aasif Mandvi brings some added verve as Miranda’s erstwhile boyfriend Makmoud, who may have given her hepatitis B. In Solondz’s world, the very mention of a disease like that registers as a punch line. Welcome to the suburban dark side again!


Film Review: Dark Horse

Portrait of the Loser as a Young Chub should be the subtitle of Todd Solondz’s latest attack against normalcy.

June 6, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1344458-Dark_Horse_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There are total losers walking the Earth, and then there is Abe (Jordan Gelber): fat, socially inept, possessed of an unhealthily negative attitude towards the world and living with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow). He meets Miranda (Selma Blair), who just may be the perfect mate for this desperately lonely, unhappy soul, as she also never left home and is terminally depressed about her failed relationship and life.

Ah, how Todd Solondz loves the disenfranchised! In many ways, Abe is his ultimate creation, even if Dark Horse is a departure from the multi-character works which have made the director’s reputation. Abe’s very hopelessness fuels the movie, and it’s often puckishly amusing to see him completely slack off on the job (which he can do, as Daddy’s his boss), cadge cash from Mom, and go about his mind-numbing days, trying to return an action figure he’s bought for his collection to a snippy store clerk and rage against his more successful brother (Justin Bartha), a doctor, who is bewildered as all he’s ever tried to do is be there for him. His courtship of Miranda is so inept that it makes Ernest Borgnine’s Marty look like Charles Boyer at his suavest. Unfortunately, after a while, as his character shows no signs of development, we lose the fascination he holds for Solondz and the film becomes rather aimless.

There are any number of wryly amusing scenes to pass the time, however, and Solondz has been particularly well-served by a nicely chosen cast. Gelber is utterly convincing and the fact that you don’t entirely despise Abe and indeed almost root for him must be considered a major acting accomplishment. Blair is pretty terrific within the sad constraints of her role and delivers her defining credo with deadpan hilarity: “I gave up my dreams for a literary career, hope, independence. I should just get married and have children.”

Donna Murphy, who has truly sparkled on the Broadway stage in musicals, finally gets a juicy—if small—movie role to sink her choppers into, as Abe’s secretary who always, weirdly, has his back, and a colorful secret identity to boot. She brings some stylish wit to the proceedings which momentarily lifts it out of its calculated doldrums. Walken is—big surprise—weird as Abe’s father, while Farrow, after all those years with Woody Allen, has become quite expert at playing querulous, suffocating Jewish matrons. Aasif Mandvi brings some added verve as Miranda’s erstwhile boyfriend Makmoud, who may have given her hepatitis B. In Solondz’s world, the very mention of a disease like that registers as a punch line. Welcome to the suburban dark side again!
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Film Review: Goodbye to Language 3D

Jean-Luc Godard’s latest film is an extension of his typical concerns, uniquely expressed by 3D. But though Goodbye to Language 3D shared a Jury Prize at Cannes, it’s a bit of a prankster’s poke in the eye. More »

Film Review: The Great Invisible

Affecting on both personal and political levels. More »

Film Review: Revenge of the Mekons

This affectionate portrait shines a well-deserved spotlight on a band that has never managed to convert their cult following into mainstream success. More »

Citizenfour
Film Review: Citizenfour

Documentary account of how Edward Snowden leaked intelligence to the world press. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

John Wick
Film Review: John Wick

Retired hit man seeks revenge on Russian mob in an above-average action film. More »

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here