Dark Horse


Action / Comedy / Drama


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Selma Blair as Miranda
Donna Murphy as Marie
Mia Farrow as Phyllis

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by soncoman 7 / 10

And Down the Stretch He Goes...

Director Todd Solondz returns to the land of melancholy with "Dark Horse," his latest serio-comic look at some of life's semi-lovable losers. I say "semi-lovable" because Solondz's characters often contain a dark streak of 'nasty' inside them, and this nastiness often manifests itself in disturbing ways.

Such is the case with Abe (Jordan Gelber,) a thirty-something man-child still living in the action-figure-adorned bedroom of his parents' home. Abe, who passes most days at his father's office avoiding work while trolling eBay for collectibles, finds himself at a wedding seated next to Miranda, an equally socially-awkward and very possibly damaged woman (Selma Blair.) After one date, Abe proposes to Miranda. Her rationale for accepting his proposal is the funniest and most depressing scene in the film. You find yourself laughing, and then quickly wondering how many people end up getting married for EXACTLY the same reasons as Miranda, without readily admitting it.

Abe's troubles mount as he finds himself having to deal with the ramifications of his rash decision. His parents (the marvelously restrained Christopher Walken and the equally marvelously restrained Mia Farrow) may be the original source of his troubles. His father constantly compares him to his more successful brother. His mother just wants him to accept his perennial-loser status, but she does it in the most kind and loving way.

None of this excuses Abe's selfishness and irrational sense of entitlement. Abe's doubts about his actions take the form of imaginary meetings and conversations with the people frustrating him in his life. (The narrative does get a bit muddled here.) His self-centeredness has devastating consequences, for others, but ultimately for himself. This 'dark horse' is not going to surprise us with a win.

Solondz leads this "Horse" well, but he can't make it drink. He doesn't disappoint, but he doesn't really surprise us either. The performances are uniformly fine. Gelber in particular does a good job of walking the tightrope of character between genuinely unpleasant and sadly unaware. Blair gets credit for playing Miranda as something other than a carbon copy or even a reverse negative image of Abe. Miranda is sadly aware of the pathetic nature of her life, and her bluntness in dealing with it is refreshing.

"Dark Horse" won't have you rolling in the aisles. You'll smile some, chuckle once or twice, and wince a lot. Standard Solondz, but that's better than most.


Reviewed by David Ferguson ([email protected]) 6 / 10

A Never-Coming-of-Age Tale

Greetings again from the darkness. Todd Solondz is the master of film uncomfortableness. If you have seen his "Happiness", you won't debate whether that's a real word or not. Mr. Solondz has a way of finding the worst in his characters and then taking it even darker and more negative. And yet, somehow, his latest (and maybe his simplest film to date) could be called a comedy.

We are first introduced to Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair) as they share a table at a wedding, yet somehow aren't remotely together. He is oblivious to her near silent attempts to nicely avoid providing her phone number to him. The film moves quickly to provide proof that Abe is the epitome of arrested development. A mid-thirties something who not only "works" for his dad, but still lives with his parents (Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken)in a bedroom decorated with action figures. It's difficult to look at someone who takes up as much space as Abe and categorize them as a kid, so I believe the better term is "not an adult". He stalks Miranda and doesn't seem to mind/notice that she is a heavily medicated depressed individual who looks at him like he's a circus act.

Abe's work environment is no better than his personal life. He brings nothing of value to his dad's company, yet somehow thinks he is always being mistreated. This carries over to his feelings toward his brother Richard (Justin Bartha), who is a doctor. Abe, who dropped out of college, believes the only difference is that Richard was the favorite son and received special privileges. It's very easy to label Abe a "loser", but somehow Solondz manages to maintain our interest with small sparks of hope.

The hope quickly fades and Abe's life heads on a fast downward spiral. There are some bizarre fantasy/dream sequences that involve the quiet, much older co-worker Marie (Donna Murphy), and a conversation in the car with his mother and brother that plays like something directly out of a Woody Allen movie (made even creepier with the presence of Mia Farrow).

There are some funny moments, but as Mr. Solondz would prefer, the laughs are tainted with guilt. We can't help but wonder why we laugh at a guy for whom we have such little respect ... actually bordering on disgust. I must admit to being pretty tired of Abe by the end of the movie, and couldn't help wondering if it might have been more effective as a short film. Still, the acting was superb, and unfortunately Abe isn't that much of a stretch from someone you probably know in real life. (www.moviereviewsfromthedark.wordpress.com)

Reviewed by Matt Kracht ([email protected]) 8 / 10

Uncomfortable satire

The plot: An obnoxious man-child attempts an ill-fated romance with an equally broken woman, while coming to certain realizations about his life.

Dark Horse is not an easy movie to watch, but when have any Todd Solondz movies been easy to watch? His unflinching, brutally honest portrayals of flawed people make him popular with the indie crowd, but it's difficult to recommend his movies to anyone else. It's difficult not to identify with the parade of eternal losers of Solondz's movies, no matter how flawed they are, because, really, these people are us. We might try to deny it, of course, but the truth of the matter is that his movies are just too uncomfortably real for many people to enjoy. You might not be an awkward, depressed girl or an obnoxious, entitled man-child, but there's probably some aspect that you can relate to. If not, then you probably know someone like this. Solondz knows who we are, and he knows our society.

Dark Horse continues a rather surreal and artistic direction for Solondz. Fantasy, dreams, and reality all freely intermix. It might leave some audiences a bit confused, but it's usually pretty obvious which are which. In fact, I really enjoyed some of these scenes, because they opened the door to really inventive narrative and metaphor. In some ways, it was like David Lynch, but without the free-form stream-of-consciousness. These scenes really illustrate the characters better than any traditional scene could. The hilariously banal conversations are another nice touch. Anyone who appreciates irony will certainly enjoy them, though the irony-impaired, I think, will possibly hate this movie.

Solondz's characters have arguably never before been so depressed, bitter, and broken. If you're looking for an uplifting story, full of inspirational and likable characters, this is not the movie for you. Solondz is the undisputed master of strangely sympathetic portraits of society's biggest losers and weirdos. This one will hit pretty close to home for many geeks.

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