You can't fault Todd Solondz for trying. You can't even fault him for failing. But what you can fault him for is not having the common sense to know that, with Dark Horse, he was in the midst of concocting a dud. Solondz is an experienced enough director that he should have known better. He very well could have put a stop to the film before the cameras even started to roll.
It's not that this tale of Abe (Jordan Gelber, alternatively annoying and explosive) -- a loser who, like so many losers, is completely oblivious to the fact -- isn't without its quirks, warped humor or creepy, oddball charms. In fact, the film teems with Solondz's trademark awkwardnesses and seat-shifting discomforts.
Abe's journey -- which includes an on-the-spot instant marriage proposal to an overmedicated depressive (Selma Blair), and chilly run-ins with his father (Christopher Walken), for whom he works -- is steeped in the pathology of pathetics. Abe is a textbook case of arrested development, and perhaps that's what Solondz is struggling to explore -- men in their late-thirties who have no ambition, no independent life, who still live in their childhood room with all its teenage accoutrements, who have none of the social skills required to achieve a normal existence.
If Solondz had found a way to relate the narrative without resorting to bizarre flights of fancy (including an admittedly funny one featuring Donna Murphy as a mousy office assistant turned cougar), or by allowing the discomfort of the situations to genuinely take root, he might have had something here. Instead, he deliberately sabotages the end product by utilizing a cheap plot mechanism. It leaves us feel cheated and boondoggled.Want to experience Solondz at his peak? Watch the profoundly disturbing Happiness, or even the flawed yet deeply engaging Storytelling. Just don't bet on this Dark Horse.
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