Todd Solondz offers up another blacker than black comedy about delusions and crippling optimism in his new outing Dark Horse.
Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair) meet at a wedding with neither one of them that keen on dancing. Before they part ways Abe plucks up the courage to ask for Miranda’s phone number and she consents. An incredibly unlikely and odd relationship develops between the two causing Abe to re-evaluate his life.
Abe is the definition of a loser in today’s society; he still lives at home with his parents, works for his Dad and does a bad job of it, collects action figures, is obese and has the charm of an eel. His parents – played by the always interesting Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken – aren’t that keen on him either. Walken’s father character Jackie constantly hassles him at work and makes him feel tense at home, while the mother looks on with pity as only a mother can.
This is almost an anti-40 Year Old Virgin film. Jordan Gelber’s Abe is in a similar enough predicament to Steve Carrell’s Andy but Solondz doesn’t sugarcoat things or make him a warm likeable character. He relentlessly hits you in the face with a dose of reality making Abe fall deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. The film is unashamedly honest in its portrayal of the misfortunes that can befall some people. This is about the losers, those poor bastards who are more than likely in the majority where nothing goes right for them. A lot of Abe’s life is well within his control and he does possess more confidence than most as he manages to ask Miranda out, but when bad luck strikes it really strikes.
The film is interwoven with a series of dreams and imagined conversations between Abe and his family as well as Marie (Donna Murphy) who is the company secretary. Through these Abe can disappear from his boring reality, although the dreams, just like his life, seem to only upset and confuse him even more. These sequences give the film some light relief and much of its heart and through these we realise Abe’s feeling of abandonment by his family.
Mel Brooks once said “falling on a banana skin isn’t funny but falling on a banana skin into a cesspool and dying, now that’s funny”, Solondz is obviously a believer of this philosophy. Dark Horse is a rare breed of a film, one that shows life in all its hideous, unfortunate, miserable glory. It makes you thankful for what you have and not in a patronising, sick child way. We can’t all get the girl, have a good job and live happily ever after. If life really is like a box of chocolates than this is definitely coffee flavour.
USA / Directed By: Todd Solondz / Written By: Todd Solondz / Starring: Jordan Gelber, Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken / 86min / Drama / Release: 29 June 2012 (Irl/UK/USA/Canada)