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When Jess & I got to the CoreClub in Manhattan for a special advance screening of the new Todd Solondz film, DARK HORSE, we figured we were in for a fun, wild and unpredictable ride. And we were. There was free wine and Swedish Fish! (“But where are the Reese’s Pieces??” asked Jess.)
More importantly, Solondz – in all his wacky, perverse, and spell-binding glory (he was also the director of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, STORYELLING and PALINDROMES, among others) – has created a film experience that feels straight-forward and at times hilariously thought-provoking. Yet, by the end, he had completely turned the tables on our expectations, pulled the rug out from under our assumptions, and charged headlong into a very dark but inescapable place.
We won’t give anything away! Just that we left with about a million thoughts and questions swirling through our brains.
The premise is simple: Abe (Jordan Gelber) is in his 30s, lives in parents’ house, underachieves at his job at his father’s company, drives a yellow Hummer SUV and collects toys obsessively. The girls in his dah are his doting mother (Mia Farrow), a listless, depressed, beautiful woman his own age named Miranda (Selma Blair) who also lives with her parents, and his father’s secretary (Donna Murphy), who saves his incompetent a$$ at work and fills his fantasies with ironic femme fatale allure.
Abe and Miranda, who meet at the much-feared singles table at a wedding, enter into a relationship when he proposes to her on their first non-date. The movie follows their story, from Abe’s point of view, asking: Will Abe be capable of an adult future? What will happen if he can’t grow up and out of his current state of inertia? Is Miranda the solution here, or another emblem of the intractable problem of male stunted adolescence?
As always, Jess and I love to watch films with an eye toward our modern, post-dating world and how this reality is portrayed (or not) in current cinema. So we whipped out our handy Millennial abacus (YES THIS EXISTS) to cast a critical eye on DARK HORSE:
- Abe is on the phone with Miranda and we hear that she is instant messengering on AOL in the background. AIM? So seven years ago! Where’s the gchat? -2 points on the Millennial abacus.
- Miranda admits to having long, involved Skype chats with her Ex-Boyfriend Who’s Still Around. +2 for Skype, +2 for dah. +4 Points
- No dinner-and-a-movie here. Abe just shows up at Miranda’s house for their first “hangout.” Awkward and creepy – but thus many a post-dating connection has been made! +2 points
- However, he calls her to make this plan. Whaa? Abe & Miranda are more Gen-Y than Millennial, however we are pretty sure texting would be the more likely form of communication here, even if it is less cinematic. -2 points
- Abe proposes out of nowhere! And Miranda says yes! We love it! This has actually happened in real life, as we know from the WTF?! Tour where Jess interviewed over 100 young men and women across the country about their love lives for Dating & Hookup book. +4 points
- There’s distinct and upsetting alienation from parents happening with all these characters, even as the parents enable their adult children with an odd, inexpressible and uncomfortable kind of love. In our experience as Millennials, our Baby Boomer parents are hyper-involved, overly communicative, and waaaaay too excited to be texting and Facebook messengering and emailing with us ALL THE TIME. We see this as a Gen-Y vs. Millennial difference, so we’ll call it even. +/- 0 points
Dating & Hookup
- Surprisingly (?), Dating & Hookup is where the movie feels right on. Both Abe & Miranda are surrounded by ambiguous, charged relationships – we’re not saying they handle it at all well, but the evolution of these characters and their rotating relationships with each other (again, not giving anything away) speaks to the power of Dating & Hookup, even in a not-strictly-Millennial setting. Plus, last shot of the movie? A dah fantasy we didn’t even know was happening ’til that moment. AMEN. +4 points
- Personally speaking, I had a Guy Who Just Blew Me Off tell me he couldn’t be with me because he had to “indulge his adolescence.” He is 34. This phenomenon is real. We discuss it A LOT on WTF?! – both pro and con. Solondz’s film is an important – and frightening – contribution to this conversation about the state of the young American male. Let’s talk.
DARK HORSE is being shown in NYC at the Angelika Film Center – details HERE!
MORE WTF?! on MANLY MEN & STUNTED ADOLESCENCE:
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Jess & Becky co-created Dating & Hookup and co-founded J&R Creative Media. They have been best friends since they were 12.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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