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dir-scr Todd Solondz
prd Ted Hope, Derrick Tseng
with Jordan Gelber, Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken, Donna Murphy, Aasif Mandvi, Justin Bartha, Zachary Booth, Tyler Maynard, Peter McRobbie, Mary Joy, Lee Wilkof
release UK Oct.11 lff
You bet your life: Gelber and Farrow
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Solondz takes another hilariously pitch-black exploration of human behaviour with a film populated by excellent actors playing seriously messed-up characters. And it can't help but force us to look at how we interact with people around us.
Even though he's essentially a pampered slacker, Abe (Gelber) exudes confidence, relentlessly going after the depressed Miranda (Blair) despite her hesitance. Living in the shadow of his successful doctor brother (Bartha), Abe works for his father (Walken), but does virtually nothing and resents the fact that his hard-working cousin (Booth) gets the credit. But then Abe feels hard-done by everyone he encounters, creating an arch-rival in Miranda's ex (Mandvi). But at no point does Abe's inner life come close to the reality around him.
This constant comical disconnect makes the film thoroughly amusing, as we see everything through Abe's warped perspective. His relationship with his mother (Farrow) is seriously twisted. And he fantasises that his dad's secretary Marie (Murphy) has an outrageous private life that goes way beyond rescuing him in the office. And everything becomes menacing when things don't go his way. He thinks of himself as a dark horse who's about to make good, when actually he's more privileged than everyone around him.
Intriguingly, Solondz never passes judgement on Abe beyond letting him suffer the ramifications of his own terrible decisions. This is a rather fatalistic approach, but it gives the film a darkly amusing tone that's matched by the colourful production values and song score, plus performances packed with details and surprises. Gelber is a charming idiot at the centre of the story; like those around him, we hope he'll snap out of himself long enough to come good. But the odds aren't in his favour.
The entire cast is terrific. Since we're seeing everything through Abe's perspective, most characters are somewhat one-sided, but Solondz and the actors stir in constant little quirks that make everyone engaging. Murphy has the most complex role, since we see her in a variety of real and fantastical settings that tell us more than we know. And Blair has the best line in a film that's full of great ones. But the real kick is learning that most of the time we bet on the wrong dark horse.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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