Title: Dark Horse
Director: Todd Solondz
Starring: Jordan Gelber, Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, Justin Bartha, Christopher Walken
Release Date: 29 June 2012

Dark Horse is yet another portrayal of Todd Solondz favourite story line – the ongoing struggle of the underdog. Just as the lead characters in Fear, Anxiety and Depression and Welcome to the Dollhouse struggled with their internal thoughts and external interactions, the main character in Dark Horse, Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a naïve and insecure man-child left to fend through an adult world. A man that yearns for respect from his family yet arrives to work at his father’s office drinking Diet Coke and wearing baseball tops. A man who feels he is ready to get married yet isn’t prepared to move out of his parent’s home. A man who is seen at his angriest when a shop assistant refuses to exchange his toy action figure. We are dealing with an irritable, confused and paranoid character, but a character that the viewer grows to love nonetheless.

The main storyline concerns Abe’s relationship with Miranda (Selma Blair), a severely depressed and sullen women, who also lives at home with her parents. After meeting Miranda at a wedding party, uttering very few words other than  ‘I don’t dance’ and then finally getting her number in what is possibly the most awkward scene in this film, Abe decides to ask Miranda to marry her on their first date. In a mundane response, Miranda agrees, proclaiming that things ‘could have been so much worse’. A classic love story.

Following from this story, the film explores Abe’s relationship with his parents, brother and Miranda in turn. The movie enters into a number of Abe’s daydreams and thoughts, demonstrating his jealousy for his brother, his desire to be loved by Miranda, his attraction to a co-worker and his frustration with this father.

All of these emotions are effectively portrayed by the setting of each scene. Abe’s daily routine of passing by his parents watching TV as he arrives home emphasises the repetitiveness and boredom he feels in his life. The sense of madness he feels is echoed in the bold, colourful and mismatched design of his room. The clinical colouring and design of his office space emphasises his sense of entrapment.

Though this movie does a five-star dive into Abe’s emotional struggles, the overall storyline is quite slow. What would appear to be the main plot of the movie ends quite quickly, followed by sporadic flashes into this character’s frame of mind throughout the remainder. Todd Solondz ensures the viewer fully understands Abe’s character, but not necessarily why there was a need to create a whole movie about it. It doesn’t say much when  the relatively minimal cinematic effects overshadow the story-line, but  there’s little else here to hold your interest.

In a Nutshell: A dull storyline that is portrayed in an artistic and animated light.

by Catherine Murnane