In films like Happiness and Storytelling, Todd Solondz established himself as a bleak ironist who's masterful at making his audience uncomfortable, and in Dark Horse, he does it again. Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a pathetic rotund loser in his 30s who lives with his parents (Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow) and works (barely) at his father's business. He meets Miranda (Selma Blair), an overmedicated depressive who thinks it might be time to give up her nonexistent "literary career" and get married.
Their relationship allows Solondz to explore his usual themes: loneliness, selfishness, isolation, desperation and living in realties of our own making. "Humanity is a fucking cesspool," Abe tells his mother, in a speech that becomes too eloquent for his self-deluded psyche. When he and Miranda kiss, she says, "Oh my God, that wasn't horrible. Things could have been so much worse." He replies: "I know."
Dark Horse is in some ways more difficult than Solondz's graphic and disturbing earlier films because it's less bizarre and closer to home. It's also less interesting, and most of it is hard to believe on its own terms. It's as if John Waters decided to tell a story of middle America without camp. I'm just not sure if I mean that as a compliment. Starts Fri., July 20. Harris