EW Movie Review: "Dark Horse"
Todd Solondz's latest film, "Dark Horse," contains characters who will seem all too familiar for those familiar with the director's work. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following movie review.
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It’s worth asking: 15 years after "Welcome to the Dollhouse," why is director Todd Solondz still playing around with a character who’s such a sad, arrested idiot-loser that he makes George Constanza look like George Clooney?
Abe, the hero of Solondz’s new film, "Dark Horse," is an eager, pudgy 35-year-old dolt who still lives at home with his parents, where he stuffs his room with action figures and models of The Simpsons. Played by Jordan Gelber, he’s the kind of guy who tosses Diet Coke cans into wastebaskets as if he were shooting game-winning three-pointers, blames everyone else for his problems and works as a lowly office accountant for his father, played by Christopher Walken, who is all scowls and a bad toupee.
This is the sort of character who’s meant to make us squirm, and squirm I did. But not because Abe the junk-culture sad sack touches the raw nerve of our desperation, the way the characters in Welcome to the Dollhouse or Happiness did. I squirmed because the real deluded one is now Todd Solondz, who is stuck in his outdated loser tropes.
The depressive insecure girls, like the one played here by Selma Blair; the vulgarity of middle-class Jewish New Jersey; the helpless schlubs who don’t know how to dress, make small talk, or ask someone out on a date. The trouble with this stuff is that it no longer connects to our era.
Solondz still knows how to hold you as a filmmaker. Scene for scene, Dark Horse certainly plays better than Solondz’ last film, the disappointing Happiness sequel, Life During Wartime. By the end, though, when the movie starts turning into a series of dreams within dreams, it’s as if he’d realized that this material wouldn’t stand up on its own.
It’s time for the gifted Todd Solondz to stop turning his filmmaking into a contest of “How pathetic can I make my characters?” and to stop confusing that toxic contest with integrity.