Dark Horse (2011)
Release date: June 8, 2012
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Screenplay by: Todd Solondz
Cast: Jordan Gelber, Donna Murphy, Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken, Selma Blair, Justin Bartha
Todd Solondz’s type of storytelling is an acquired taste. I’ve never actually ventured beyond his mad successful Welcome to the Dollhouse — with a cult star-making role for Heather Matarazzo — and Happiness, but even a Solondz newbie like me could appreciate movies like those.
Though painted as a dark comedy that starts with a deadpan awkward intro at a wedding, Dark Horse is a bizarre drama following the life of Abe (Gelber), a nearly forty-year-old man still living at home with mom and dad (Farrow and Walken), and reluctantly working for his father’s company.
Despite his sour way of looking at things — including his bitter relationship with his younger brother Richard (Bartha) — Abe still is under the delusion that he can get together with messed-up-soul Miranda (Blair), who will be averse to accept his advances… at first.
Solondz’s stories aren’t unfamiliar with underdog characters, but I never perceived any of them as unlikable as Abe was. It wasn’t an issue that he was unsuccessful, that he still lived with his parents, that he was thinking of marrying and keeping his parents’ house while sending them to a home. I didn’t even mind that everything was somehow wrong and that it wasn’t his fault but everyone else’s. No, he also had to be ungrateful.
It was really hard to pull through and find any redeemable characteristic in Abe as a lead, to find the will to keep on watching the film, and to actually feel something for him by the end. Interestingly enough, there was Marie (Murphy), the quiet and quite efficient secretary at the family’s company. Murphy’s character shows different facets throughout the film, going from a mousy secretary, a lifesaver, all the way to a dominatrix cougar. Considering the tone of the film, are we witnessing Marie’s daydreaming instead of the life of Abe and his love misadventures?
The last act of the film is a hepatitis mess that really comes from nowhere, but what does the last shot of Marie at the office mean? Did everything that had just happened actually happen?
Is Donna Murphy actually the lead of this story? Maybe Dark Horse is worth watching a second time, despite the liver-busting feelings I got from watching it.
Dark Horse will be opening at Landmark theaters in San Francisco and East Bay on July 20th.
Todd Solondz will speak at select opening weekend Dark Horse shows:
- Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco
Friday, July 20, 2012, at 7:35pm and 10:00pm shows
- Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley
on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 5:40pm and 7:50pm shows
- Camera Cinemas in San Jose
on Saturday, July 21, 3:00pm show
- Rafael Film Center in San Rafael
Sunday, July 22 at 7:00pm show