Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This is the first Todd Solondz film in 10 years that isn't connected to any of his previous work (Palindromes being the sequel to Welcome To The Dollhouse and Life During Wartime being the sequel to Happiness). This is definitely his best work since 'Storytelling'. He followed up 2009's 'Life During Wartime' pretty quickly, as there usually seems to be a 5 year wait between each of his films in the last decade.
'Dark Horse' is the story of "Abe". An immature 30-something year old manchild that still lives with his parents (Christopher Walken & Mia Farrow), collects actions figures (there's a scene in the film when he buys a thundercats action figure for $450), lives in his younger brother's shadow and is socially awkward (some scenes are almost painful to watch when he interacts with other people). At the beginning of the film Abe falls in love with the depressed "Miranda" (Selma Blair): another 30-something year old who lives with her parents and battles depression. After one "date", Abe asks Miranda to marry him and she accepts for all the wrong reasons. Like any other Solondz film, he masterfully mixes tragedy with comedy. Just like the bullying Dawn faces in 'Welcome To The Dollhouse', the pedophilia in 'Happiness', the maid murdering the family in 'Storytelling' and the abortion...and more pedophilia in 'Palindromes', we find ourselves laughing at things that really shouldn't be funny.
Abe is just another signature "loser" character in a long line of "Todd Solondz loosers" (Heather Matarazzo in 'Welcome To The Dollhouse', Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 'Happiness', Paul Giamatti in 'Storytelling' and Solondz himself who starred in 'Fear Anxiety & Depression').
The performances were good. Selma Blair may annoy some of you as her character is so depressing to the point where you don't want her to even talk anymore. And something about Christopher Walken's natural creepiness seemed to go perfectly with Todd Solondz' style. It was also nice to see him NOT play a cartoonish version of himself.
Todd Solondz comes off like a modest guy, but something tells me that he got so tired of seeing the common themes of his movies copied for the last 10 years that it kinda forced him to switch up his own style. This is his first film to not feature pedophilia, masturbation or rape.
One of my issues with the film was that it wouldn't end. And its not even that long of a movie to begin with. 'Dark Horse' felt like it ended 3 times. Just put a period on the movie already! Also, every Todd Solondz film (including his rarely seen first feature 'Fear Anxiety & Depression') features a dream sequences and his films often play on reality vs. fantasy, but there was a little too much of that (for my taste) in this.
I'll be giving this one more viewing tomorrow evening.

One of my goals here at the Toronto film festival is to try and see as many of the movies that may not be coming right out in the U.S. any time soon ('carre blanc', 'house of tolerance', 'wuthering heights', etc). 'The Ides Of March' clearly doesn't fall in to that category of films (if I'm not mistaken it has a release date for the end of the month), but there was seriously NOTHING else on the schedule playing that caught my interest, so I figured I'd give you guys a scoop on this a few weeks before it hits theaters.
I think it would've been criminal if a movie with a cast made up of; Ryan Gosling (who's 2 for 2 at Toronto this year with this and 'Drive'), George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marissa Tomei and Jeffery Wright had turned out bad. But thankfully 'The Ides Of March' did not. I don't normally go for most recent political thriller/dramas. Sometimes it feels like once you've seen 'Clear & Present Danger', 'Syriana', the Jonathan Demme 'Manchurian Candidate' or 'The Sum Of All Fears', its like you've seen 'em all. They're usually just angry white guys in suits running around, whispering loudly & growling all while double crossing each other every 5 minutes. It gets a little tiring after a while. But 'The Ides Of March', which didn't really have the "action" aspect of all the previously mentioned films, was a surprisingly entertaining political thriller. Of everything i saw on Thursday ('melancholia', 'we need to talk about kevin' and 'le havre'), this was the ONLY film i didn't have to struggle with as to whether i liked it or not. For a film that's only 90-something minutes long, Clooney (who directed and co-starred) didn't rush anything or cram a bunch of convoluted and unnecessary sub-plots in to the story.
In 'The Ides Of March', Ryan Golsing plays "Stephen Meyers": a young up & coming campaign manager for Democratic presidential hopeful "Mike Morris" (played by George Clooney) that gets caught up in an abortion scandal involving a young intern. Things become even more stressful for Morris when his friendship and loyalty are put to the test with his mentor (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman).
There's a few nods to real life political figures like Gary Condit and his scandal with his intern or Clooney's fictitious campaign logos that look VERY similar to the real life "hope" ads used by Obama during the 2008 presidential election.
With the exception of Tomei and Wright, all of the other cast members had shining moments in the film (and that's not to say that Tomei and Wright weren't great in this. Its just that they were only in a few scenes each). I did find it odd that at certain points in the film Gosling would go in and out of acting like Clooney (smug and cocky) to acting like himself.
So for those of you who were on the fence about this one, I'd say go for it.


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