Storytelling - rated - SIMMERING
There's no one as cruel as Todd Solondz.
I thought his previous film, the ironically-named Happiness (1998),
was bitter, but Storytelling almost outdoes it - except that nothing
can beat the issue of child abuse for sending shivers down your spine.
Storytelling is in two parts - one titled 'Fiction' and the other
'Non-Fiction'. 'Fiction' is a witty riff on pretentious writing and the
way writers use people (both as material for their writing, and in the other
sense of 'using' people). Everything seems to be shot in a queasy green
light. The dialogue is bitter:
"Do you think I have potential as a writer?" asks Vi of her writing
"No," he replies.
"Thankyou for being honest," she responds.
Solondz takes us through terrifying humiliation to an abrupt ending to the
first half of the film. As the writing teacher tell his class - good writing
must have a beginning, a middle & an end. This, in my opinion is good
writing, tautly directed. The second half of the film is not quite as successful.
'Non fiction' tells the story of a documentary film maker named Toby (resembling
Solondz) who sets out making a film, and is quite happy to exploit a Jewish
middle-class family, making them look ridiculous in order to make his film
a success. However, the family is so forceful and so self-absorbed that
they make him make the film entirely about them. They end up exploiting
the film maker. This isn't exactly hard, since he's a bit dim: in the first
scenes we see he hasn't moved on from his school days. He's still trying
to date his high school sweetheart, and recapture his glory days.
There's more bitter dialogue:
"What is rape?" asks Mikey, the family's youngest son, of Consuelo,
their Salvadoran housekeeper. She replies:
"It is when you love someone and they don't love you and you do something
Says Mikey: "Sometimes I think my parents don't love me."
Replies Consuelo: "Then when you grow up you can do something about
But Mikey's smart - he wants to be the centre of attention, and so he does
something about it right away. This causes a tragic cascade of events,
which ends in an even more bitter scene of self-absorption. Toby approaches
Scooby and says: "Ohmigod Scooby, I'm so sorry" (but, of course,
he is still filming).
"Don't be," says the wounded Scooby, "the movie's a hit."
This film is obviously Solondz's reaction to the self-centredness he sees
in his profession. Everybody in this film is using everybody. Like 'Happiness',
it's a film to make you (as the nuns used to suggest) examine your conscience.
The film's only wrong not, it seems to me, is the way Consuelo is used,
by Solondz, to bring the second part of the film to its climax. But then
again, as Solondz seems to say, in Hollywood, everybody uses everybod
© Michèle M Asprey 2002
This review is copyright. You must not use any part without my permission.