And speaking of cut scenes, Storytelling took another major blow on the cutting room floor. The third act from Storytelling, which involves some kind of a graphic sex scene between a closet homosexual football player (played by James Van Der Beek), is one of the last films in an infamous group of rare & unfinished movies like Terrence Malick's Lanton Mills, Werner Herzog's A Game In The Sand' and Quentin Tarantino's My Best Friends Birthday that we'll probably never get to see. For reasons that still remain unknown 11 years after the film’s release, the third part was cut from Storytelling making it an incomplete film. Some speculate that because Van Der Beek's character in Storytelling was a high school football player that it conflicted with Varsity Blues (which was released a year earlier) and some mysterious studio powers that be had his part cut from the film. Or did it have anything to do with Van Der Beek being on Dawson’s Creek and a gay character wouldn’t sit well with the family friendly fan base? I don’t know if I buy either of those reasons because during the time Van Der Beek was on Dawson’s Creek he starred in Rules Of Attraction which featured just as much vulgarity and sex as Storytelling. He also made an appearance in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back which had an average one gay joke every 2-1/2 minutes so it couldn’t have been that either. To this day I find myself googling around trying to find that one interview or write-up that clearly explains what the problem was involving the third story from Storytelling but I have yet to find it. But this major cut in the film still didn’t stop the promotion (actually by the time it hit theaters a lot of people didn’t even know that a big part of the film was missing). Todd Solondz gave the pedophilia a rest this time around and addressed issues like racism, white guilt, the America family and he even addressed his nay saying critics in a not-so subtle way. Solondz still focused a good portion of the film on youth which is common in just about anything he does. The film is made up of two unconnected stories ("Fiction" & "Non-Fiction") that both take place in New Jersey...
Non Fiction - The second story is about a documentary filmmaker (Paul Giamati) and his attempt to make a film about an everyday American teenager (Steven Weber) and his family. But a series of surreal and unexpected events occur that affect the production (hypnotism, paralysis and murder). Non-Fiction features a surprise cameo from Conan O’Brien and is one of John Goodman's last memorable performances.
It’s commonly agreed among most Todd Solondz fans that Happiness and Welcome To The Dollhouse are his definitive films. In my opinion Storytelling should be added to that group of "definitive Solondz films". But because it’s been clouded with Terry Gilliam-like post production problems and faced some HEAVY editing, most people have forgotten about it. Storytelling stands as an important film in Solondz' career. It showed growth and his ability to tackle new subject matter just when people were starting to pigeonhole him all while still maintaining his unique darkly quirky sense of humor and that key dream sequence that comes with every one of his films. In the same way Solondz had us laughing at the absurdity of 11 & 12 year olds calling each other faggots in Welcome To The Dollhouse or depression and perversion in Happiness, Solondz had us laughing at everything from racism to a family being set on fire in their sleep in Storytelling. Sorry, but it’s just as much a Todd Solondz film as Happiness is. Just as the ensemble character/crisscrossing plot movies were starting to die down in the late 90's, Michael Haneke (Code Unknown), Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), Guy Richie (Snatch) and Alejandro Inarritu (Amorres Perros) breathed new life in to the genre at the start of the new decade. When connecting the stories seemed like the "in" thing to do, Solondz went the route of his peer Todd Haynes (Poison) and separated the stories. Was he intentionally trying to make some kind of a statement against those kinds of movies? Of course not. His last movie prior to this was Happiness (one of the more popular ensemble films of the late 90's). But weather he meant to go against the grain or not, Storytelling was still a breath of fresh air.