The years have done their best to temper the controversial story teller in Todd Solondz. The writer/director’s 1995 debut Welcome to the Dollhouse and his pitch dark follow up Happiness, made him a critics’ favorite and the go-to filmmaker to chronicle white suburbia’s seediness.
His latest, Dark Horse, still finds him mining suburbia for quirky leads and plot lines, but he has stripped away a lot of the shock for the sake of being daring controversy and settles for simply offering compelling characters with their own unique set of problems to tackle. Abe, played by Jordan Gelber, is a thirty-something Long Islander still living with his parents and working for his father. Constantly angry for no good reason, the bratty Abe ends up sharing a table at a wedding with Miranda (played beautifully by Selma Blair), way out of his league looks wise, but with a full set of her own baggage. The two decide to marry after their first date and the rest of the movie is reaction from their families trying to make sense of this screwed up union.
Funny without resorting to contrived set ups, Dark Horse is easily Solondz sweetest film to date. At times subtly cruel and still moving, the movie is a collection of some of his most absorbing characters forced to make do with the decisions they made early on. Solondz once again lives up to the hype.
88 mins./Virgil Films/2012