Todd Solondz New Film, Dark Horse, Opens at Violet Crown Cinema in Austin

I have not viewed all of director Todd Solondz’s films, but suffice to say that when I saw his film, Palindromes (2004), it was definitely an eye opener and broadened the types of films I had viewed to date. It was even more so after meeting the director face to face to discuss his film. Eight years later and I still remember talking about one character in particular.

I walked into the theater wondering what to expect this time and I was not quite as surprised by it as somewhat anticipated. I do not quite feel the characters in the script for Dark Horse are as strange, but even more pitiful in this story. It has two characters that are adults living with their parents. Not that it is a bad thing in today’s economy when there is a need for many, but Solondz’s characters appear to be living in well to do neighborhoods. They also looked like the parents enable the situation and this is the part that I think was excellent in the film. There are strange parents, with stranger children, and on and on to the next generation.

We are in trouble when two thirty-somethings are trying to navigate through a perceived romance with the thought of them having children. An avid toy collector, Abe (Jordan Gelber) and a depressed looking woman, Miranda (Selma Blair) do not look like they have things in common, but spend time together.

Writer and director Solondz takes us on the trip between the two, their families and circle of friends. Do not expect to be spoon fed this story, as it does provide the viewer an opportunity to make their own opinion of just how sad, or comedic, this whole scenario really is. I like for a film not to spoon feed the story and can be quite a statement about today’s society without screaming it at us.

The film stars Justin Bartha as Abe’s brother, Richard and Mia Farrow, Donna Murphy, Christopher Walken, Zachary Booth and Aasif Mandvi. Who stands out of this set of actors is not much of a question when Walken is part of a film and his performance as Abe’s father, Jackie, is excellent. Solondz’s choice of casting is great with Walken who has quite a range to play different characters in variations of comedies. Overall, the entire cast works well together to deliver this quirky view of Abe’s dysfunctional world.  Gelber is certainly good at portraying dysfunction.

While this film may not rock everyone’s world, mental health and social workers may be interested in viewing it for all the dysfunction it clearly lays out. Dark Horse will open at Violet Crown Cinema Friday July 27.

By Liz Lopez

Rating B-

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