Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse (2011, 86 min, 35mm)
“Finish the spreadsheets.”
Todd Solondz, master of the pitch-black suburban satire, doesn’t make films that are easy to digest. To some, Solondz may seem to practice a sadistic cinema of cruelty, callously exploiting subject matter, such as pedophilia and teen pregnancy, that would be too controversial for most directors; however, to suggest that Solondz is an anti-humanist or misanthrope is to adopt a narrow-minded, idealized view of human behavior. Instead, Solondz’s unique brand of tragicomedy offers a fusion of pathos and dark humor that suggests a kind of moral relativism or absurdist outlook. In DARK HORSE, his most recent film, Solondz executes this tricky balancing act to perfection, creating a character that is both sympathetic and contemptible.
A product of the man-child phenomenon, Abe is a lonely accountant who works for his dad, pilots a gargantuan yellow Hummer, and maintains a collection of action figures (think a more pathetic version of George Costanza or Steve Carrell’s 40-Year-Old Virgin). After meting Miranda, based on a character from STORYTELLING, he abruptly proposes in hopes of finally growing up. Both a coming of age film and a romantic (black) comedy, DARK HORSE may be the director’s most accessible work to date, but those viewers hoping for a cringe-worthy moment comparable to the first scene of HAPPINESS will be disappointed—Solondz may be showing a glimmer of optimism, albeit begrudgingly. — Harrison Sherrod, CINE-LIST
Opens tonight in Chicago at Facet’s Cinematheque.
For a full, nation-wide list of screenings and events, click here.