Dark Horse (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 84 mins

Superbly acted and frequently darkly funny, Todd Solondz's latest film has the occasional flash of brilliance but it loses focus in the middle section and is let down by a frustrating final act.

What's it all about?
Directed by Todd Solondz, Dark Horse stars Jordan Gelber as Abe, a schlubby thirty-something loser who still lives with his parents (an almost unrecognisable Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow), half-heartedly works in his father's office and spends all his time buying Thundercats toys on eBay. Perversely, however, Abe is not without confidence and when he meets heavily-medicated depressive Miranda (Selma Blair) – who has also just moved back in with her parents - he thinks he's found a kindred spirit and proposes on their first date.

The Good
Character actor Jordan Gelber is perfectly cast as Abe, playing him as basically an overgrown child, angry at the world (“I'm too old for American Idol”) and seethingly jealous of his over-achieving brother (Justin Bartha); on the surface he's laughably awful, but Gelber allows you to see that there might be a good person on the inside, if only he could find the right partner. Selma Blair (who's rapidly becoming Todd Solondz's muse) is equally good as Miranda and there's strong comic support from Walken (his terrible wig alone is laugh-out-loud funny), while Mia Farrow is very sweet as Jordan's devoted mother.

The dialogue is excellent and there are some very funny lines, particularly in Abe's interactions with his parents (it's hard not to think of Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager at times). There are also several brilliant moments, such as Abe delightedly showing Miranda his bedroom (festooned with children's toys), Abe attempting to return something to Toys R Us or the way Miranda worships her cocky ex-boyfriend Mahmoud (Asif Mandvi).

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that, having set up an interesting and engaging story, Solondz seems to lose interest halfway through and abandons the straight narrative in favour of a collection of scenes that could be dream sequences, fantasy scenes or the product of delusion or illness. The key indicator is that minor characters (notably Abe's dowdy secretary, played by Donna Murphy) suddenly start acting out of character, as if they're figures of Abe's imagination – at any rate, whatever it is, it's never made clear and the film's multiple endings eventually become frustrating.

Worth seeing?
Despite its frustrating final act, Dark Horse is still worth seeing, thanks to a darkly funny script and a superb performance from Jordan Gelber, though it's not on the level of Happiness or Welcome to the Dollhouse.

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Content updated: 22/02/2020 05:03

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