Filmmaker Todd Solondz has hammered out an odd career by focusing his mostly satirical work on the darkness lurking just below the surface of suburban life. His ostensibly ordinary characters turn out to be pedophiles (Happiness) or rapists (Palindromes) seemingly created to validate the banality of evil. For Dark Horse, Solondz invented a protagonist who's mostly just annoying. Abe (Jordan Gelber) is 35, lives with his world-weary parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow, as you've never seen them before), whines about everything, collects action figures instead of doing something with his life and blames it all on everyone but himself. Is Abe really a worthy subject for a film?
Dark Horse makes Abe interesting by taking us deep into his psyche in a uniquely artful way, though a little patience may be required. As he courts the almost equally troubled Miranda (Selma Blair), Abe's already threadbare life gradually unravels. The lines between dreams, fantasy and reality begin to blur. Aiding and abetting is Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, who shows up to deliver a searing monologue that illuminates Abe's many woes. Empathy and sadness pierce the director's veil of deadpan humor. For Solondz, that may be the darkest place of all. — KEN KORMAN