Director Todd Solondz is a weird guy, really weird. No kind of bad parenting or strange past makes a guy like this. The dude is just plain crazy. He made us feel sorry for a child molester in Happiness and watch the famous “Are you going to rape me?” scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse. His movies are a pain in the ass to watch, and that’s their genius. So what’s there to say about his new movie Storytelling (Fine Line Features)? It’s disturbing, but you’ll love it.
Storytelling is actually two separate short films, “Fiction,” and “Nonfiction” strewn together to create one 83 minute exploration of youth and adolescence.
The first story, “Fiction”, depicts the college experience of young Vi (Selma Blair) a college student aspiring to be a writer. Her English teacher, Mr. Scott (Robert Wisdom), seeks to teach Vi about more than simply writing, and upon Vi’s breakup with her boyfriend, gets just that chance.
“Fiction” explores the depths of emotional attachment and revenge. In addition it addresses issues of race and authenticity in literature. Blair delivers an impressive delivery, pawning over her teacher, while at the same time crating a character with great depth. You can’t help but feel bad for this misguided young girl.
“Non-Fiction” tells the story of an aspiring documentary filmmaker Toby Oxman (Paul Giamatti) seeking to create his first movie, an exploration of high school apathy. Toby focuses in on the life of young Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber) permiateing every aspcect of his life. In his exploration he uncovers the complex realities of life in the Livingston household. John Goodman makes an appearance as Scooby’s father Marty Livingston.
This short film takes a look at the representaion of truth in film as well as issues such as homophobia, and teenage angst. It also explores the nature of becoming too comfortable in the upper middle class world.
Goodman comes through once more developing a convincing and complex characterization for a wholly strange individual. Webber does an apt job of portraying Scooby, a high-school burnout with little future. He does at times however fall into generic stoner characterization, which can get a bit boring. The unsung hero of the film is Jonathan Osser, who plays Scooby’s younger bother. Osser is one of the most impressive child actors in recent film history. As an uncaring disconnected youth he is amazing. He sparks both compassion and hatred from the audience.
It may seem like Solondz bight off more than he can chew, making a go at so many large topics. In Storytelling though, the tone is not preachy. The film feels less composed of propaganda and more of reality. With a harsh unforgiving style, Solondz uses flim, once again, to send a shock wave through popular culture. Though the overall film may not be a good as his past efforts Solandz manages once again to create a film classic. Yes, it’s some disturbed stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.