Review by Michael Jacobson
Selma Blair, Robert Wisdom, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Mark Webber,
Director: Todd Solondz
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: July 16, 2002
you a pervert?”
I’m a filmmaker.”
a movie lover by nature, so it’s really rare for me to come across a film I
absolutely hate. It doesn’t feel
good when it happens…it feels even worse if that picture is by a filmmaker
whose work I’ve admired greatly in the past.
Todd Solondz is the auteur behind Welcome to the Dollhouse, which
I still consider the greatest movie about adolescence ever made.
Now, he offers up Storytelling, an absolutely vile exercise in
everything that is contemptible and cruel.
It forces you to ask: how
can the same artist, who once showed such love and tenderness toward his
characters, suddenly become a bully who relishes and revels in their misery?
film is divided into two segments, “Fiction” and “Nonfiction”.
The “Fiction” segment is short, pointless, has nothing to do with the
meatier second part, and exists only to belittle and reduce people to hateful
stereotypes. Solondz snickers at the pain of a crippled writing student,
then gleefully licks his chops as an intelligent, prize winning African American
writer (Wisdom) is reduced to a lecherous sex fiend.
“Nonfiction”, a documentary filmmaker (Giamatti) attempts to make a picture
about the “All American” family in the new millennium, and the pressures
their oldest son Scooby (Webber) feels while being forced into college by his
overbearing father (Goodman). Scooby
smokes pot, dreams about being a TV star despite his lack of academic ambition,
and…oh, yes, has a gay sex scene which has nothing to do with the story or his
character, but is played only for squirm factor.
more hateful is the appearance of yet another racial stereotype; this time, a
Latin American housemaid who’s treated shamefully by the family’s youngest
kid, who later gets her fired after learning of a terrible personal tragedy
she’s suffered. She comes back to
exact revenge…I think Solondz purposefully invites us to think of Yolanda
Escobar with this character.
shocked and amazed by what some respectable critics have had to say about this
picture, including its supposed “insights” into suburban life, and so on.
Bull. I’ve encountered
very few pictures in my career that are less insightful than Storytelling.
This picture has nothing to say.
It’s non-cohesive, lacks any kind of dramatic structure or arc, and is
filled with the most flatly drawn characters I’ve seen in a long time, who
exist only so their creator can drip his contempt upon them in frame after frame
like so much venom.
second thought, maybe Storytelling IS an insightful film.
I think I’ve learned more about Todd Solondz than I ever cared to know.
only difference between the R-rated and unrated versions of the film is that a
key sex scene early on is blocked out digitally with a big red quadrangle.
DVD is not one of New Line’s prouder moments.
Being that there are four versions of the film on a single sided disc,
compression abounds, even with the lack of features. Shot after shot is filled with murky, poorly defined images
and colors that are washed out from the necessary compression.
It’s far from unwatchable, but is quite possibly the worst ever
offering in this department from the reputable New Line.
audio is mostly about the dialogue, and is therefore unspectacular by nature in
both 5.1 and 2.0 surround forms. I
noticed no use of the rear stage or the .1 channel at all, but this isn’t the
kind of film where you miss it. Spoken
words are clean and clear, though dynamic range is clearly minimal.
A passable effort, nothing more.
a trailer. The box claims
“animated menus”…there are none.