Dark Horse takes the indie template dragged into the mainstream by films like Juno and Superbad, extracts the soft centre and replaces it with jet-black humour and a lingering sense of desperation.
Abe is an overweight man-child who collects ThunderCats dolls and still lives with his parents. He’s the kind of guy nobody speaks to at a wedding. He sparks up a somewhat dubious relationship with the equally stunted Miranda, who is the kind of person who gets chatted up at weddings by losers like Abe, while everybody else is off having a good time.
It’s an essentially sour look at suburban America, in which everybody is unhappy and most of them are clinically depressed. Some hide it better than others, which, given the amount of verbose introspection we get from Abe, may well be a good thing.
The humour stems from their mutual despair – Miranda coming to terms with giving up her self respect and settling for a slob like Abe; Abe settling for a woman who clearly isn’t into him; Abe’s parents realising their son is a waster.
A toupeed Christopher Walken, whose face is beginning to resemble a malevolent Norwegian woodcarving, provides many of the laughs, with a wonderfully understated performance as the stoic father.
To his credit, director Todd Solondz doesn’t blink, even as Dark Horse gallops at breakneck speed towards a brick wall. The result is a messy, often unpleasant but refreshingly honest middle-class melodrama.
First published in City A.M.