Jonathan Osser

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Storytelling Review


Excellent
Writer-director Todd Solondz has a knack for making us feel downright uncomfortable. He did it in his twisted debut, Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), with a young Brendan Sexton III announcing his intentions to rape an even younger Heather Matarazzo. He did it in Happiness (1998), in nearly every scene. And he's providing more squirm-inducing moments in Storytelling, a film with less intensity than Happiness, but with a continuing streak of intellectually challenging dialogue and unforgiving subject matter.

Aside from Solondz's decidedly risky topics, his format in Storytelling takes chances. It presents two separate shorts, entitled "Fiction" and "Non-fiction," with no obvious connection between the two. The only true thread is that both comment on the telling of tales, the shifting of points of view, and the way most people in Solondz's suburban landscapes constantly paddle their painful lives upstream.

Continue reading: Storytelling Review

Storytelling Review


Weak

Todd Solondz's "Storytelling" is designed to foster a sensation of absorbing discomfort, not unlike his earlier examinations of esoteric, emotionally disquieting Americana "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." But this film's two shrewd but pointless short stories are suppressed by the underlying feeling that the film got worked over something fierce in post-production, and that half its guts are lying on a cutting room floor somewhere.

The conspicuously abrupt first segment, entitled "Fiction," runs about 20 minutes and stars Selma Blair ("Legally Blonde") and Leo Fitzpatrick ("Bully") in painfully authentic performances as an emotionally insecure coed and her cerebral palsy-stricken dorm neighbor and lover. Unable to connect emotionally, they each vent their frustrations in pallid short stories about their thinly veiled real lives for a creative writing class. These yarns are not well received by their ruthlessly candid classmates, who pass judgment on Blair's and Fitzpatrick's meager authoring talents and, by extension, their messed-up lives.

Desperately seeking some kind of acceptance, the frail, troubled Blair surrenders herself sexually to her even more cruel professor (Robert Wisdom). Once at his apartment, he forces her to spout racial epithets (she's white, he's black and about three times her size) while having his way with her rather violently and so graphically that Solondz covered the scene with a superimposed red box to avoid an NC-17.

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