Dark Horse

Another quick review from the Melbourne International Film Festival!

Dark Horse is the latest tale of irrevocably stunted human beings attempting to navigate their way through the real world from veteran director Todd Solondz. As a general rule, I find Solondz’ work very difficult to bear, not because it is bad, but because his portrayal of human beings in a state of completely arrested development is incredibly traumatic. This time around Solondz has taken pity (kind of) with a film that allows the viewer, if not the characters, a slight glimmer of hope.

Dark Horse follows Abe (Jordan Gelber), a stunted and morbidly obese thirty-something who lives with his parents (Christopher Walken & Mia Farrow) and spends his time collecting rare action figures. Abe works for his father’s real estate agency in a position that he is far too lazy and incompetent to fill, depending entirely on the pity of the company receptionist and the weakness of his father to bluff through. Poor Abe is entirely incapable of taking responsibility for any aspect of his life; blaming everybody else for the pathetic course it has taken. It is at this point that he meets the beautiful yet emotionally devastated Miranda (Selma Blair), a paralysing depressed and heavily medicated woman with dreams of being a writer. These two completely different human beings, whose only connection lies in their inability to deal with the world, attempt to find in each other the happiness that they have not been able to find anywhere else.  Oh…  by the way… it’s kind of a comedy.

Solondz’ directing is perfect, and every performer in this film gives an incredible performance, most especially Gelber, in a role that balances the fine line between generating empathy and disgust in the viewer. My only complaint lies in a third-act shift that feels both unwelcome and unnecessary – which I won’t elaborate on here.

Definitely worth a look.

James Curnow is an obsessive cinephile and the owner and head editor of CURNBLOG. His work as a film journalist has been published in a range of print and digital publications, including The Guardian, Broadsheet and Screening the Past. James is currently working through a PhD in Film Studies, focused primarily on issues of historical representation in Contemporary Hollywood cinema.

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