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Storytelling
     

Storytelling

4.6 3
Director: Todd Solondz

Cast: Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Aleksa Palladino

 

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Writer/director Todd Solondz continues skewering middle-class American mores with this comedy-drama that is just as provocative, funny, and painfully astute as his Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) and Happiness (1998). Lancing everything from the modern obsession with youth to critics of

Overview

Writer/director Todd Solondz continues skewering middle-class American mores with this comedy-drama that is just as provocative, funny, and painfully astute as his Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) and Happiness (1998). Lancing everything from the modern obsession with youth to critics of his own work, Solondz paints a tapestry of suburban fatuousness in which no one, not even such hallowed liberal sacred cows as little kids and hard-working immigrant minorities, is spared. The filmmaker is also after some bigger philosophical fish here, as evidenced by his presentation of his narrative in two parts, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction." In the former, a college student documents a real-life incident that's a nexus of psychosexual and racial forces, only to have her creative writing class reject the truthful account as "ugly" and unbelievable. In the latter, a clueless documentary director with an agenda that is overly fluid and less than artistic composes an entertaining if wholly inaccurate portrait of a teen slacker, missing every moment of real significance unfolding right under his nose while focusing on the amusing but utterly banal "truth" about modern life of the type purportedly captured in such bilious works as American Beauty (1999). Solondz directs his withering gaze at those who pillory his work as focusing only on the negative aspects of life in the overly entitled and ultra-privileged modern landscape and it's a point well taken; he's remaining true to his subjective vision of reality. Isn't that the ultimate responsibility of every artist? It's telling that in one brief passage, Solondz specifically lampoons the retarded navel-gazing of Beauty, perhaps the decade's most overrated film. Whereas that multiple award-winner actually reinforced the bourgeois ideals it pretended (in the most obvious and dull manner) to satirize, Solondz is piercing the surface of leisure class complacency and exposing its inane absurdity to the harsh light of intellectual rigor. It's sometimes painful to watch exactly because it's brutally honest and unflinching; unlike the year 2000's Best Picture winner, Storytelling doesn't let the audience off the hook by framing an average mid-life crisis as heroic or insisting that its antagonist be an outsider, a non-conformist military figure whose behavior reinforces the status quo. No wonder Solondz's films make so many people uncomfortable -- they hurt, but sometimes pain is a symptom of growth.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
Master of extreme irony Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) tells two tales of tale telling in this odd satire about truth in fiction and the fiction of "truth." Part One, "Fiction," follows an aspiring writer (Selma Blair) whose preconceptions about her craft -- and her sexuality -- are challenged by a mysterious, ruthlessly critical professor (Robert Wisdom). Solondz methodically invokes taboos involving racism and physical handicaps here (the professor is black; the writer's boyfriend has cerebral palsy) and then drenches them in a variety of critical responses. Part Two, "Nonfiction," comprises the bulk of Storytelling and follows a suburban New Jersey family (John Goodman and Julie Hagerty) as a struggling documentary filmmaker (Paul Giamatti) turns his video camera on their pot-smoking, aimless eldest son, "Scooby" (Mark Webber). Again, the stereotypes come fast and furious, designed to provoke preconditioned responses and expectations. And here Solondz also seems to be leveling an attack at the way documentaries exploit their subjects in the name of truth. Ultimately, Storytelling pushes its envelope of irony until it seems at times to break, leaving the audience alone with conflicting and perhaps irresolvable sentiments. In the process, it becomes the very definition of a provocative film. It is an hour and a half that may not go down easily, but it is potent medicine indeed.
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Todd Solondz mines familiar territory with Storytelling, but adds a large dose of self-consciousness. Obviously Solondz has heard his critics who complain that he is a manipulative writer interested in little more than cruelty and pain; he has characters in both of these stories voice these complaints to the two characters who are attempting to work out their personal lives in their art. While the "fiction" half of the film addresses its difficult issues with the shockingly cold deadpan humor and the bored "in-your-face" style that is familiarly Solondz, the much longer "non-fiction" portion is little more than the work of a director who, with nothing new to say, simply attempts to answer his critics. Giamatti is made to physically resemble Solondz, and his battles with his editor allow Solondz the chance to have a character voice towards his look-alike the complaints levied against Solondz and his earlier films. While apparently self-critical, Solondz turns the tables on his critics by showing an audience laughing appreciatively at the cruel film his character has created. Solondz is less interested in analyzing why he is drawn to this material than he is in blaming his audience for liking his (according to his critics) "mean-spirited" films. This disturbing attack might work if there was a narrative to go with it, but the story of the family that Giamatti is chronicling is barely more than a tired and redundant retread of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse. Storytelling is the work of a man at a crossroads, which is an uncomfortable place to be for a director who has thus far blazed his own trail.
Rolling Stone - Peter Travers
1/2
A movie that advances the career of a demonstrably gifted filmmaker, a fearlessly funny movie whose laughs draw blood, a bracingly provocative movie that won't apologize for its bad temper.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/18/2017
UPC:
0888574488208
Original Release:
2001
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Time:
1:27:00
Sales rank:
88,298

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Selma Blair Vi
Leo Fitzpatrick Marcus
Aleksa Palladino Catherine
Robert Wisdom Mr. Gary Scott
Noah Fleiss Brady Livingston
Paul Giamatti Toby Oxman
John Goodman Marty Livingston
Julie Hagerty Fern Livingston
Lupe Ontiveros Consuelo
Franka Potente Editor
Mike Schank Mike
Mark Webber Scooby Livingston
Mary Lynn Rajskub Melinda

Technical Credits
Todd Solondz Director,Screenwriter
Michael De Luca Executive Producer
John Dunn Costumes/Costume Designer
Frederick Elmes Cinematographer
Ann Goulder Casting
Amy Henkels Executive Producer
Ted Hope Producer
Susan Jacobs Musical Direction/Supervision
Drew Kunin Sound/Sound Designer
Nathan Larson Score Composer
David Linde Executive Producer
Alan Oxman Editor
Christine Vachon Producer

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