Dark Horse Reviews
Jordan Gelber plays Abe, a 30-something manchild who has stopped developing psychologically or socially since he was 13 years old or so; he's a classic case of arrested development, overly sheltered by his milquetoast parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow) and jealous of his much more successful brother (Justin Bartha). He meets a similarly damaged woman (Selma Blair) and very inappropriately proposes marriage; but she is so depressed that she actually accepts him. Things don't go well from there.
As always, Solondz excels at portraying suburban neurosis and misery with poker-faced irony; it's always hard to tell whether Solondz has outright contempt for his miserable characters, or whether he's simply examining them like an anthropologist. This movie does feel slightly more openly sympathetic to Abe that it might have had it come earlier in Solondz's career. We do end up kind of caring about Abe, even though his total awfulness is plain to see. Selma Blair, a generally under-appreciated actress, gives a convincing performance as someone almost unspeakably depressed. Christopher Walken is hilarious, as always, though he does so this time by not trying to be. Mia Farrow's performance as Abe's mother is quite good at eliciting sympathy for a woman who has to deal with her screw-up of a son.
The movie's dark, cynical humor won't appeal to a lot of people, but it's exactly the sort of thing I enjoy. My main criticism of the film would be that it detours into some strange choices in the last 15 minutes or so. While the ending certainly isn't predictable or boring, I'm not convinced it really fits with everything that's come before. Basically, if you're a Solondz fan, you'll like it; if you're not a Solondz fan (and statistically, you probably aren't), it might actually be a better place to start with his work than some of his earlier films are.
At first, we all know people like Abe in real life who have nothing original to say and without anything to truly call their own, despite living a life of relative affluence. That's not to mention his being overweight and prematurely balding.(But he does have a model toy Dalek. And hey I have that Doctor Who poster!) No matter how much any of that may be true, it does not make "Dark Horse" any easier to watch. However, the movie eventually moves from bad weird to good weird, as Abe's interior thoughts and dreams take on a surreal life of their own with a yellow color pattern to match.