Miranda (Selma Blair) and Abe (Jordan Gelber) in Dark Horse.
By Don Simpson
Abe (Jordan Gelber) is essentially all of Hollywood's stereotypes of losers rolled into one: overweight, balding, collector of action figures, 35-years-old and resides with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken), works for his father (but seems utterly incapable of actually doing any work), drives a yellow Hummer, and listens to nothing but cheesy bubblegum pop. He is an overgrown brat who is prone to lashing out at everyone around him and blaming his family for his arrested development.
As you can probably guess, Abe's social skills are also lacking. This is showcased during the opening sequence in which Abe attempts to get a phone number from the quietly morose woman -- Miranda (Selma Blair) -- who is helplessly seated next to him at a wedding. Abe knows no boundaries and Miranda is ill-equipped to deal with a man who cannot take a hint. Nonetheless, Abe pries each digit from Miranda as if he is yanking her teeth out one by one with his fingers.
Writer-director Todd Solondz has an inherent knack for uncomfortable situations, and he attacks the opening sequence like the somewhat seasoned veteran that he is. Unfortunately, Solondz quickly becomes stuck in a quagmire of having nothing else to do with these two losers. So what would have been an inspired short film is stretched into a lazy portrayal of one-dimensional caricatures with limited personality traits that play in an endless loop for Dark Horse's 86-minute running time. Abe alternates between throwing childish tantrums and confusing lucid dreams with reality, while Miranda remains expressionless and emotionless. (It is a "joke" that she is so incredibly dull that she names her dog, Dog.)
In a way, Dark Horse is a lot like Miranda. The film has absolutely nothing to say or do. The narrative just stands there, blankly staring at us like Dora (the Explorer) awaiting our response. But what are we supposed to respond to? For better or worse (mostly worse), it seems as though Solondz no longer feels the desire to shock us; instead he just tries to bore us into a hypnotized state of mind-numbing submission. Then, once Abe starts slipping into ridiculous fits of fantasy, Dark Horse dissolves into complete nonsense.