HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

Blu-ray Review: Scathing ‘Dark Horse’ Flips Apatowian Formula on its Head

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

CHICAGO – Movie theaters have rarely appeared as depressingly airless as they do in Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse.” Rather than confront his adult responsibilities, pathological man-child Abe (Jordan Gelber) storms into the nearest multiplex for his daily consumption of media-fed inspirational escapism. He quietly mouths the answers to pre-movie questions projected in the otherwise vacant theater, as his words fall on nonexistent ears.

For financially strapped young adults forced to live at home well past their teenage years, Solondz’s latest scathing satire may be a horrifying externalization of their worst nightmares. As a cautionary tale, it is both pitilessly bleak and oddly humanistic. Gelber, an actor best known for starring in the Broadway smash, “Avenue Q,” is so inherently likable that he causes the audience to root for his unfortunate character—not to fulfill his undeserved dreams, but to come to his senses.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

For roughly the film’s first two acts, “Dark Horse” is as funny and provocative as anything Solondz has ever done. Abe is an unfortunate antihero who has bought into the American myth that the underdog is always rewarded. He’s wasted his life waiting for victory to be achieved without putting forth any effort to actually achieve it. He blasts hideous upbeat pop tunes in his car (most memorably, Michael Kisur’s “Who You Wanna Be”) as if to drown out the increasingly harsh noise of reality. At age 35, Abe still lives at home with his parents: a tireless enabler of a mother (Mia Farrow) and a father (Christopher Walken) whose face is frozen in a state of catatonic disappointment. Walken earns many of the film’s biggest laughs simply by staring into space with Grant Wood-like resignation. Though Abe has acquired a desk job at his father’s office, he has no desire to understand his assigned tasks. He desperately yearns for his father’s approval, but can’t bring himself to tackle his daily paperwork, which is completed by a dutiful co-worker, Marie (Donna Murphy). As Abe’s delusions start overpowering his psyche, they overtake the narrative as well, leading to a final half-hour that becomes more unsatisfying and opaque with each successive scene. Since Marie is viewed largely through Abe’s skewered eyes, her actual motivations remain ambiguous until the film’s last few minutes, which are well-meaning but feel entirely unearned.

Dark Horse was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th, 2012.
Dark Horse was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th, 2012.
Photo credit: Brainstorm Media

The picture doesn’t quite gel, but it consists of so many intriguing pieces that they demand to be seen regardless. Occupying Solondz’s fractured wonderland are familiar faces such as Miranda (Selma Blair), the failed writer in “Storytelling,” who accepts Abe’s proposal not out of love or enchantment but simply because she’s out of options. Her drug-addled phone conversations, consisting primarily of sustained awkward pauses, are small masterworks of comic timing. Also welcome is Jiminy, the ex-Sunshine family member from Solondz’s excellent 2004 effort, “Palindromes,” who materializes here as an obscenely chipper store clerk who is all-too-happy to inform Abe that he’s of no help whatsoever. While Judd Apatow kickstarted the trend of endearing audiences to developmentally arrested men, “Dark Horse” turns the formula on its head by regarding a self-loathing screw-up who has no Hollywood ending in sight. The scenes between Abe and his parents are so brilliantly acted and written that one wishes that Solondz hadn’t allowed the plot to devolve into a Buñuelian riddle. And yet, perhaps it’s only fitting for Solondz to refuse fulfilling audience expectations, since his film is a seriocomic ode to unfulfilled potential.

“Dark Horse” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio) and sadly includes no extras. Audiences baffled or repelled by Solondz’s work may be inspired to take a deeper look at it after observing the director in interviews (there are several stellar videos available on YouTube). He is charming, witty and wholly sincere.

‘Dark Horse’ is released by Brainstorm Media and stars Jordan Gelber, Selma Blair, Donna Murphy, Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken, Justin Bartha, Aasif Mandvi, Tyler Maynard and Zachary Booth. It was written and directed by Todd Solondz. It was released on November 13th, 2012. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

By MATT FAGERHOLM
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
matt@hollywoodchicago.com

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Hot stories on the Web


User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Emmy Awards, Bryan Cranston

    LOS ANGELES – It was one more lap around the victory track for the AMC-TV show ‘Breakling Bad,’ as the gritty drama about a teacher turned meth dealer took home six Primetime Emmy Awards at the 66th ceremony on August 25th. ‘Modern Family’ took home the statue for Outstanding Comedy Series for a a fifth straight year.

  • Knick, The

    CHICAGO – Cinemax’s ominous new series “The Knick” is a hospital drama that’s very much in the voice of its director, Steven Soderbergh. Set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, the series presents the medical world as it inches closer and closer to modernity, while making contemporary parallels to the desperate hustle by surgery room clients and their doctors alike regarding treatment of the human body. What has changed in the politics of medicine? What hasn’t?

Advertisement


HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker