Dark Horse Review

Who’s your money on?

Loud, garish and disposable pop blares out from some tinny speakers while an ecstatic bride and groom get their groove on for their first dance as a married couple.

As the camera pans to the right, friends and family swiftly join in; each of them trying to outdo the other with their perfectly in sync and highly postured dance moves.

Until we glimpse Abe, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, who’s sitting with his dinner date explaining why he doesn’t dance.

Abe is a middle aged fellow, with middle aged spread and a receding hairline to match.

Which makes him one hell of a dark horse.

His wedding “date”, Miranda, is much slimmer and far prettier but her dead eyes betray her distinctly bored outlook on life.

Either that or this is what Abe inspires in her.

Yet for all his superficial defects, Abe is supremely confident in himself and his own self worth.

Reluctantly, Miranda gives him her number before they go their separate ways for the night. For Abe, this means back to his parent’s house and a comic book strewn bedroom complete with collectable action figures.

While his Jewish parents appear to have happily settled into some married life rut, watching the same tv programmes night after night, Abe’s failed to even evolve past his own adolescence.

In love with the idea of thinking of himself as a dark horse, rather than just being said equine, life is passing Abe and he’s starting to realise how little he has little to show for it.

When Miranda agrees to see him again, Abe finally gets the chance to show his true colours and live up to his father’s label as a Dark Horse.

The latest oeuvre in Todd Solondz’s peculiarly unique cannon of work, Dark Horse is also the most mainstream feature of his I’ve ever seen.

It’s the story of modern excess in america, where the offspring of wealthy and religious families increasingly stay at home with their parents until they get married and are ready to set up their own biological franchises.

Abe is the embodiment of this western excess. He’s never had to grow up because his parents have always looked after him, never had to work a real job because of his father’s success and this has left him ill prepared for the real world.

So Abe has become little more than a 35 yr old teenager, which is a growing reality for the increasing number of spoiled and pampered children living in our little capitalist paradise.

Solondz’s tale of capitalism’s overgrown children is a curious one and, as always, his slightly surreal fingerprints and pitch black humour are all over Dark Horse.

There are moments in the second half that continually defy reality, so you’re no longer certain if you’re watching Solondz’s illusion of the real world or have slipped into Abe’s imagination and are watching his rather fantastical interpretation of his life.

By Dark Horse’s climax, I’m still none the wiser.

The assembled cast are certainly impressive. Whilst the role of Abe goes to relative unknown Jordan Gelber; Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow, Selma Blair and Justin Bartha make up the supporting roles.

Still, Dark Horse lacks a decisive finish that could have seen it storming up the rails.

Of course, maybe that’s the point.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

November 2011