Friday, August 31, 2012

Todd Solondz: Dark Horse

Selma Blair, Jordan Gelber, Dark Horse, Vitagraph Films, 2012.

One of the most narratively original films of the year, Todd Solondz's daring comedy-drama Dark Horse, is worthy of all your attentions and cinematic devotions. The dark comedy master from New Jersey serves us one of the most subtly powerful films of his career. Taking inspiration from Paddy Chayefsky's 1950s stage classic Marty, and Delbert Mann's subsequent Oscar-sweeping film version, by way of Woody Allen's wonderfully surreal fantasy streak, as his starting point for a work of art that is truly transformative.

Jordan Gelber is shattering as our pathetic protagonist, a middle aged schlub still living with his aging parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow, both superb). He works with his Dad at the family business, where Dad's secretary Marie (an amazing Donna Murphy) looks longingly at him from her desk. His world begins crashing around him, after he becomes smitten with a strange, medicated woman (Selma Blair) who also lives with her parents. Their awkward courtship bookends the interconnecting fantasies and dreams of all of the characters, until Solondz has obliterated our perceptions of filmic "reality".

The pure inspiration flowing through Solondz's little world, the dignity he affords his fractured characters, grants us a glimpse inside one of our country's great directors; he has had yet another triumph in a long string of masterpieces: from Happiness to Life During Wartime, and now this, one of his strongest creations. Along with Wes Anderson, we are witnessing the maturation of the 1990s indie auteurs into integral American masters.

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