thu 18/04/2024

Dark Horse | reviews, news & interviews

Dark Horse

Dark Horse

Solondz fans will surely be disappointed in a film that swerves in a whole mess of directions

Selma Blair as catatonic Miranda and Jodan Gelber as loser 30-something Abe

Todd Solondz is the indie king of American dysfunction. But the director of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse has served a strange fish for his latest film, and that’s not just because of the awkward terrain of his subject matter. Veering confusingly between comic realism and the protagonist’s flights of fancy, Dark Horse is a film that falters and swerves in a whole mess of directions.

It’s disorientating, and not in a good way, but rather in a clunky, abruptly shifting gears sort of way.

The film opens with a wedding reception, an opener that often presages an obstacle-strewn new romance. And here we meet Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair), two awkward, socially dysfunctional 30-somethings. Abe, garrulous and fat, looks uncomfortably sweaty in a suit, whilst Miranda, pretty and petite, is practically catatonic (we soon learn she’s drugged up on meds). With blustering persistence that suggests a blindness to the most obvious social signals, Abe manages to get Miranda’s number. She, meanwhile, has already forgotten about him when he rings up next day and bulldozes his way into fixing a date.

Abe thinks of himself as a dark horse who’ll one day triumph

Dark Horse is all about that modern social phenomenon, the kidult. Abe is a loser dude, living with his parents, collecting action figures from Toys R Us, and working at a job at his dad’s firm where he does something, though not very well, with spreadsheets. Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow play the parents, with Walken his usual creepy self, hostile in his relations with his son (he’s meant to be fairly ordinary though prickly here, but the creepiness seeps through), and Farrow a rather dippy suburban mother hen with a look of permanent pained bemusement. Bitter sibling rivalry is added to the mix, since Abe has a younger brother who’s both handsome and working as a doctor in California.

Still, Abe thinks of himself as a dark horse who’ll one day triumph without anyone ever suspecting that he might even have been in the running, and he says as much to Miranda, in a long, rather excruciating speech that is his way of wooing her. When they finally kiss, Miranda’s acquiescence is an acknowledgment of self-defeat and an expression of her self-disgust, since her ambitions to be a writer haven’t borne fruit. “That wasn’t horrible,” she says, and there’s both relief and wonder in her words. “That could have been so much worse.”

Where the film starts to unravel are the off-kilter fantasy sequences where the viewer becomes unsure as to whether it’s wishful thinking that’s doing the talking or Abe’s conscience, or indeed the alter-egos of the other characters (perhaps it’s a mixed-up mixture of all three). Still, Donna Murphy (pictured right), who plays Walken’s mousy but efficient secretary Marie – always at hand to bail Abe out with his spreadsheet problems – does an impressive turn as a predatory vamp in killer heels with a killer line.

Great performances aside, Dark Horse is a film of two halves, with the second half dissolving into oddly fragmented sequences. It will surely disappoint Solondz fans.

Watch the trailer to Dark Horse

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Dark Horse is all about that modern social phenomenon, the kidult


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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