"“A clever film about the repercussions of a man who spends his time being an egocentric, ignorant layabout…”"
Airing at this autumn’s London Film Festival, Dark Horse is a clever film about the repercussions of a man who spends his time being an egocentric, ignorant layabout. With an accomplished, experienced cast, and a poignant and witty tale, it’s a film that certainly has more to it than initially meets the eye.
Dark Horse tells the tale of thirty-something Abe (Jordan Gelber), a troubled and self-absorbed man, convinced he has more to offer the world that reality would have him believe. Still living with his parents, and constantly in the shadow of his brother Richard (Justin Bartha), a successful doctor, Abe is an avid toy collector, working for his father Jackie (Christopher Walken). His life at home has become stale and monotonous, that is until he abruptly falls in love with fellow recluse Miranda (Selma Blair). Her reluctant, yet eventually assenting desire to be with Abe has the potential to turn his life around, just as long as he allows it too.
Perhaps there is a conformity and fondness towards a character boasting to be the dark horse of his family, the one that no-one understands, the one unlucky in love, a character that, in a sense, is supposedly easy to relate to. However, Abe is a vile, repugnant man who is actually easy to readily distance yourself from. In some ways a shame, as it would be good to have more of an emotive relationship with the character of Abe, to make his life seem more disconcerting, but due to the nature of the part, it makes it very difficult to actually like him.
But in a sense that’s the beauty of the film, and a reflection of Todd Solondz’s work. You want to like Abe, you want to relate with him and excuse his misgivings in life, although more often than not, you find yourself wanting to scream at him and tell him to sort his life out. Clearly facing maturity issues, reflected in his appreciation for video games and plastic toys, he needs to grow up and get real, but sadly, that doesn’t seem plausible.
As a result the film becomes poignant and affecting, as what is effectively a dark comedy has underlying values, portraying a man clearly struggling to cope with his own life. Effectively telling a rather dark, quite sad tale; with far more depth than I had first expected. However, to avoid too much poignancy, the film complimented this with a brand of wit and humour that allowed for Abe’s defective qualities to seem funny and amusing.
There was one thing that bugged me throughout however, which was the inability to tell what was supposed to be a dream scenario, and what was real life. The film cut in and out of real situations, to ones that were simply a figment of Abe’s imagination. Some were easy to spot due to the preposterousness of what was going on, but the way the film continuously switched between the two made it quite difficult to follow or understand. I appreciate what Solondz was trying to achieve by this, making the film almost a reflection of Abe’s personality issues, but it just isn’t really comprehendible.
However, the performances from the cast ensured that it wasn’t too much of a problem. Gelber was brilliant as Abe, showing off his ability to come across as being repulsive and deluded. Blair was also strong as the timorous and depressive Miranda, as were the veteran performers Walken and Mia Farrow, playing Abe’s parents, adding a touch of familiarity and experience to the feature.
There’s a good chance Dark Horse could live up to its namesake at this year’s film festival, so keep an eye out for it - as it certainly proves to be a film worth going to see.