I love Todd Solondz – his movies are renowned for tackling some of society’s trickiest issues, and he manages to do it with sensitivity and humour. Interestingly, Dark Horse (which has yet to pick up a distribution deal in the UK) is his first attempt to, as he puts it, make a film without masturbation or paedophiles. But to be honest, I think a bit of wanking might have helped here.
Dark Horse has a lot of the classic Solondz touches, misfits, loneliness and awkward relationships with a good few laughs too – and for the first half at least, it’s a very watchable movie. Richard and Miranda do their best to fall in love so they can escape their miserable home lives (both are well on their way to middle age and still living with their parents). It’s clear that Richard has little aptitude for – or interest in – work and his main focus in life is in adding to his collection of superhero figures. Their story is quite sweet, but for me the second half of the film lost its way entirely and when it ended in a flurry of confusing hallucinations, I lost interest. I wanted to find some sort of point in it all, but there wasn’t one.
On the plus side, it does have strong performances, not least from Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken and the two leads (Selma Blair and Justin Bartha) are excellent. And there are some laughs. But for me, this is Solondz-lite. Maybe he needs to dip back into the darkness a bit next time.