Director / Writer: Todd Solondz
As if in response to the success of 2005’s The 40 Year Old Virgin, in particular of the unlikely lovableness of Steve Carrell in the lead role, and all of the man-childery that has become prevalent in pop-culture since (the ubiquity of the term ‘man-child’ being prime evidence, along with the broadening in popularity of video games, comic books and cartoons), Todd Solondz offers one of his most focused, self-reflexive and sardonic films in Dark Horse, tackling chronic childishness and the grand delusion of a magically successful future that goes hand-in-hand with it.
The subject with a severe case of arrested development is black sheep Abe (Gelber): 30-something, college drop-out and overweight, he lives with his parents in a seemingly unchanged childhood room replete with figurines, barely works in an unskilled job at his father’s company and drives a Hummer. Yes, a Hummer. Emotionally regressive, he throws tantrums at his detached father (Walken) and enabling mother (Farrow) with his shame compounded by the success of his doctor brother (Bartha). Lazy and unable to come to terms with his life or cynicism, his frustration with fantastical escapism eventually leads him to actively pursuing happy delusion in life. Thus he embarks upon a desperate courtship of Miranda (Blair), a depressive effectively neutralised on meds.
So far, so dark; but Solondz has a real knack for capturing the grim and ludicrous truths of humanity in a beautifully concise manner, that is both affecting and deeply comical. All of that ugliness laid bare is made more emotionally approachable and ultimately, cinematically engaging. Solondz’ laconic style is just as unique as it was with the excellent Happiness of nearly 15 years ago, with Dark Horse’s narrower focus rendering it perhaps not as funny as previous efforts, but certainly more personal.