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Storytelling | Review

Cerebral pleasure

Solondz treats us to yet another feel good movie of the year.

Perceptions, distortion of truth, half-truths, fiction, lies and non-fiction are all words commonly attributed to the stories we tell. Some people write them, some people document them and some just simply make a film about telling them. Todd Solondz third major feature film is accurately entitled, Storytelling. In the same style as in his previous effort Happiness; Solondz brings some more of those uncomfortable not-so-funny-queasy images that create a sort of uppercut on the unsuspecting public, basically this ain’t material for a family picture.

Structured into two volets the first half entitled ‘Fiction’ is a prologue of sorts for the second half conveniently called ‘Non-Fiction’. In ‘Fiction’, we have the students of a literature course detail the stories which they have written. One pink haired female student named Vi, played by Selma Blair (A Guy Thing) eventually gives an autobiographical account or ‘tells her story’ about a one-night misadventure with this non-Barry White fellow: her teacher- an intimidating sharply tongued published author played by Robert Wisdom (The Heist). The uneasiness of this relation is amplified when the characters get together in one scene, where we witness the worst of match-ups a naked and puny un-woman-like body and this big black hulking mass of man. The second part sees a man with no ambition, Toby played by Paul Giamatti (Man on the Moon) attempting to create a documentary. An accidental meeting while relieving himself in an urinal gives him his subject matter-a generation nothing named Scooby (Chelsea Walls). The narrative then includes Scooby and his current predicament that includes college entrance exams, his future ambitions and his strange family. John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) is the head honcho at the Livingstone household and plays that “what are you going to do with your life” father of three children including the charmer of the piece- in the smallest member of the family. The youngest boy, a little too curious and smart for his own good, questions Consuelo the full-time house maid and sitter about her adult son, and consoles her grieving with his own observations that maybe indeed her son is not innocent of the ‘rape and murder charges’ that were given to him, the humour is perhaps a little noir or wry for most taste-buds, but this fits deliciously with the fragile life portrayals of the subjects.

You can call it a specialty of his; director Todd Solondz’s characters are the life-struggling underdogs who are affectionately shown in their mini moments of glory and many moments of despair, they’re confronting life as the un-hip and un-cool protagonists of Solondz’s unkind but factual depiction of them. Storytelling’s heroes or zeros come as you can pretty much guess- in all shape and forms, he likes depicting his characters during the cruellest of periods in life-the teenage years of early adulthood as well as adults who have fallen off the social standard and by the waste-side. The bigger question here is-Does Solondz taste for the visually risky social commentary worth the merit of even being looked at? Pedophilia, rape and the ugly side of humanity is an unfortunate reality, and when treated with an ironic sense of humour it could case major commotions-this is neither bad nor good, but if done properly the results can leave audiences with a ‘better’ compassion all the characters that are depicted on the screen. Give me the choice between a shoot and kill with no consequences flick and the up close and personal tragedies of the common Joe and I’ll easily put my money on the latter. You don’t have to be sick, twisted or perverse to find a quality in a Todd Solondz film, Storytelling like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness is not only the personal auteur resentment towards the moral values/standards of a mainstream film industry, but it is also a fine remedy and a good laugh for life’s more bizarre moments. Storytelling is tale worth being told.

Rating 3 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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