[Last Film I Saw] Dark Horse (2011)

Title: Dark Horse
Year: 2011
Language: English
Country: USA
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director/Writer: Todd Solondz
Cinematography: Andrij Parekh
Jordan Gelber
Salma Blair
Christopher Walken
Donna Murphy
Mia Farrow
Justin Bartha
Zachary Booth
Aasif Mandvi
Tyler Maynard
Rating: 6.5/10

A KVIFF screening, my second Todd Solondz’s film since HAPPINESS (1998), DARK HORSE is a pretty dark comedy, thoroughly enjoyable, but besides the bountiful gags, wisecracks and well-crafted comedy performances, the film’s nucleus is an out-and-out tragedy of an overweight loser, Abe (a niche for recent prospering nerd protagonist, over 30, living with his parents, working in his father’s company, etc.), who is blindly optimistic to embrace his life, pursue his love and all eventually being shattered into pieces.

The film appeals to a more sensible crowd who is yearning a decent comedy without crude schlock, but Todd Solondz’s understatement of the misery undertow has its energy accumulated along the storytelling, and delicately finesses the credibility between real world and Abe’s illusionary world (with a scene-stealing Donna Murphy in her two-sided role in the two paralleled orbits, unassuming and loving in one and titillating and overweening in another, very much conforms to the comedic tone).

Leading man Jordan Gelber is a no-name, whose plump appearance and happy-go-lucky attitude is quintessentially familiar with anyone who are imbued with soap opera (from small screen) or slapstick (from a bigger screen) mad of U.S.A. A glum-faced Selma Blair is pitch-perfect in her weirdo-with-a-pretty-face disguise, under the premise that still she is way out of Abe’s league. Veterans Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow are Abe’s parents, stay true in their respectively satirical default, a stubborn father and an indulgent mother.

Although I have missed many Solondz’s films between the 14-year-gap, but just compared with HAPPINESS, DARK HORSE is less ambitious and more friendly without many cinematic taboos (I barely remember the details of HAPPINESS, but nothing would erase the boy’s sperm at the end of film out of my brain cells in these 14 years), meanwhile is equally funny and provocative, and which should have attracted a broader group of demography to enrol in Solondz’s camp.


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