Hollywood routinely casts actors who are obviously unrelated by blood to play parents and their children — actors who are so genetically disparate that your brain and life experience boil over like water in a pot. “Are you trying to piss me off?,” you mutter at the filmmakers. “I’m trying to go with your damn movie and you’ve got a baboon playing the son of a giraffe. Presumably you’re aware that giraffes don’t give birth to baboons and that many ticket-buyers are aware of this also, so why are these actors sharing a family dinner? Why?”
The enterprising Todd Solondz has been known to challenge and sometimes beat Hollywood at this game. I’ve never been able to tolerate his icky films to begin with, but at times his family castings have been ludicrous. Three years ago I wrote that one of the reasons I bailed on Solondz’s Life During Wartime at the 65-minute mark was “because the tall and large-boned Allison Janey could never be a sister to the tiny pipsqueak British actress Shirley Henderson — not in a million fucking years.”
But one can see at a glance that Solondz has outdone even himself in Dark Horse, his latest film, by casting Jordan Gelber, a fat, balding, curly-haired New York Jew, as the son of the slender, light-brown-haired Christopher Walken, the real-life product of a Scottish mom and a German dad who at best could be mistaken for a Ukranian Jew, and the famously blonde and WASPy Mia Farrow, whose dad (John Farrow) was Australian and mom (Maureen O’Sullivan) was Irish.
Don’t get me wrong — I can’t wait to be tortured by Dark Horse. I’ll see it any way I can while I’m still in Europe (i.e., if the downloading isn’t regionally blocked) or at least when I get back to New York later this month. All film critics and writers are required to not only submit themselves to the Solondz experience in a receptive, open-pored way, but to try and follow the example of the late Bingham Ray and praise his films whenever and however possible. Or at least be quiuetly respectful.
Many critics, I’m sure, are sincere in their admiration of Solondz. It’s obvious that A.O. Scott‘s N.Y. Times review is as earnest as the day is long.
Jordan Gelber, Mia Farrow in Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse
I despise Solondzworld. It was obvious years ago that the man is obsessed with the ick factor (child molestation, incest, dysfunctional shut-ins), and that he’s unable to divorce himself from his more-or-less constant theme — i.e., the inner monster in us all will always crawl out and can probably never be restrained. Solondzworld is a place of constant guilt and denial and venom and nightmares. Whenever I spend time with Solondz’s characters, I tell them to “do the merciful thing — get out your father’s AK-47 and shoot yourself in the mouth…easier and less complicated that way.”
From his Wiki bio: In July 2010 Solondz completed the script of his next film, Dark Horse, which was filmed in the fall of 2010. Solondz commented that “there’s no rape, there’s no child molestation, there’s no masturbation…and then I thought, ‘oh my God, why didn’t I think of this years ago?'”