Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dark Horse (Rhoades)

A “Dark Horse” Doesn’t
Necessarily Win the Race

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

C’mon, get your own place. Get a job that you like. Bravely ask a girl out. I’m getting tired of these “failure to launch” stories, about an immature guy who still lives at home, unable to face the world.
Yes, “Dark Horse” is a good film, but it’s yet another “quirky, tragicomic romance” between an eager underachiever and the socially-awkward, over-medicated object of his affections.
Thirtysomething Abe (Jordan Gelber) still lives with mom and dad (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow). He hates working for his father and resents his successful brother, the doctor. He meets Miranda (Selma Blair) at a wedding and pretty soon they’re deciding to get married. But Abe’s still a man-child surrounded by his toy collections and his fantasies.
Whether trying to return a scratched action figure to the toy store, playing backgammon with his mom, or arguing with his dad over finishing his degree, he’s an oversized boy who’s “going through a rough patch.”
What makes this film different than “Failure to Launch” or “Greenberg” or “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is the not-quite-John-Malkovich look inside the cranium of Abe, an exploration of his angst and obsessions as events begin to spin off track.
These fantasies explore Abe’s unsteady mind – from trying to get a store credit for returning his fiancée to a toy store, to being pursued by his father’s cougar secretary, to an encounter with Miranda’s former boyfriend Mahmoud in a neck brace after being slugged by the distraught Abe.
“Next thing you know you’ll be fifty and your life will be over and you’ll still be living at home,” says Marie the secretary. Or at least a fantasy version of her does.
A fantasy version of his mother explains that the family wrote him off as a failure years ago.
An overweight nerd, Gebler adds a great deal of depth as Abe. Blair is listlessly mopey as Miranda. Walken is wonderfully unsympathetic as dour old dad. And Farrow is an excessively pampering mother.
Currently playing at the Tropic Cinema, “Dark Horse” is a dark comedy from writer/director Todd Solondz (“Happiness,” “Welcome to the Dollhouse”). He describes it as a “sad comedy, where it’s up to you to laugh or not.”
Solondz has been described as a “truth teller.” So don’t be surprised to find yourself smiling and wincing at the same time.

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