In no way to be confused with any Long Island chamber of commerce promo, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse may do for LI’s public image perception what his suburban noir Welcome To The Dollhouse encapsulated as goofy angst personifying Jersey. Somewhat of a sinister Mr. Hyde to Woody Allen’s Dr Jekyll, counting personal appearance and inner sensibility in equal measure, Solondz taps into a pervasive suburban despair that could qualify as one of Dante’s Circles of Hell, by way of the Long Island Expressway.
Jordan Gelber is Abe, the Dark Horse in question. A thirtysomething chubby lost soul existing in what has increasingly morphed into downscale suburbia, Abe has joined the ranks of its economically disaffected youth, clinging to his arrested development and still living at home with his parents.
More unhappily slacking than toiling at the company of his disparaging dad (Christopher Walken) and not in any way consoled by his supportive but glum mother (Mia Farrow), Abe impulsively makes a drastic bid at romance during a wedding reception. Hitting on terminally depressed wedding guest and perceived fellow loner Miranda (Selma Blair), Abe pursues his indifferent object of infatuation as his borderline stalker instincts feverishly kick in.
In an overmedicated daze and likewise still living at home with her parents, Miranda seems barely cognizant that she’s accepted Abe’s brash proposal of marriage on their first date, kind of hooking up in her childhood bedroom. Though a triangle of sorts looms in the loony couple’s midst, and it’s not exactly Miranda’s ex-boyfriend Mahmoud from Dubai (Aasif Mandvi) with whom she still Skypes. Coming between the prenuptial pair is Hepatitis B, sending Abe into a doomed when not dangerous downer state of mind, factoring in tears and toothbrushes.
Filmed on Long Island by way of the Dominican Republic on occasion, Dark Horse is laced with refreshingly devilish humor and razor sharp one liners. And enhanced by the delightfully deranged comic timing of the cast, also counting Justin Bartha as Abe’s envied physician brother. Along with Donna Murphy as the suspiciously schizoid company secretary covertly channeling Mae West, and possibly doing both father and son after hours.
But Dark Horse may be too dark for its own good, when lightening up might have been a better way to go. As Abe’s elaborately murky fantasies begin to take over and compete with the increasingly dwarfed narrative. Until his hyperactive convoluted daydreams just about upstage everything else, and leave much too little to audience imagination.
2 1/2 stars