America's Biggest Losers: Dark Horse 

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Dark Horse
Directed by Todd Solondz

America loves a winner, but Todd Solondz loves a loser. His films—from Welcome to the Dollhouse to Life During Wartime—have been dedicated to the country's creeps and weirdoes, perhaps none more so than his latest, which even takes its name from that most idealized hero—the long shot, the nobody. The essential question here is to whom the title really refers. I don't think it's the protagonist.

That's Abe (Jordan Gelber), a sum of super-loser signifiers: he's overweight and balding; he collects action figures, holds a shitty office job, and lives with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken, who're often seen watching Seinfeld reruns, a funhouse reflection of their subdued suburban dysfunction). Saddest of all, he listens to nothing but optimistic contemporary bubblegum pop. At a wedding, Abe meets not-cute a morose woman, Miranda (Selma Blair), whom he asks posthaste to marry him. "I want to want you," she tells him tearfully; "That's good enough for me," he replies.

Casual, episodic and mildly eccentric, Dark Horse is as mainstream a movie as Solondz is likely to make (even if it's sometimes unclear what's actually happening and what's fantasy). It still bears the director's trademarks—the bright colors, rich lighting, and the American sad sacks in suburbia, chief among whom is Abe. What makes him the ultimate loser is that he romanticizes his own shitty condition by trying to frame it as that of the underdog. It's not—he's really just an asshole, one who lashes out at those around him, blaming everybody but himself. (Though he is kind to Miranda.) "We're all horrible people," Abe says. "Humanity's a fucking cesspool." But I suspect Solondz doesn't really believe that. In fact, the movie has one fundamentally decent character—the one on whom the film ends—relegated to the margins, one who's generous, the littlest of the little guys; such a character could never have a movie all its own. Loudmouths like Abe are the attention-grabbing jerks. The genuinely kind are the actual losers, the real dark horses—the true heroes of Solondz's strange America.

Opens June 8

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