The latest film by Todd Solondz feels like an extension of Happiness. Which is to say it’s a predictable litany of cruelty and gallows humor that is as entertaining as it is revolting. But it’s more than just that, it’s also fascinating to see Solondz continue to react to the world at large with what is starting to feel like an ongoing dialogue between him and his critics and audience.
Storytelling is two stories. The first is about a half hour long and involves a black creative writing professor who has sexual relations with one of his students, someone who clearly stands in as a surrogate for Solondz. When she writes about what happened (“the truth”), she is roundly attacked by the rest of the students (the “inept critics” who don’t see “the truth”).
R for Sexual content, language, drug use
But then, in the second narrative in Storytelling that is about an hour long, a failed actor and aspiring documentary filmmaker steps in as the Solondz surrogate. This time, the filmmaker does things that exploit the subject and expose the director to be an opportunist. (The use of Mike Schank, from American Movie, as the director’s cameraman introduces the possibility that Solondz viewed that film with contempt and used Schank as a visual cue to documentaries that have fun at their subjects expense. Solondz takes a similar jab at another film when he spoofs a scene from American Beauty.)
Overall, yes, it’s bleak and depressing and Welcome to the Doll House remains Solondz’s most emotionally satisfying work to date. But this ongoing and predictably nasty stuff that has followed continues to be dynamic stuff, full of grist for the mill.