Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

The new film from Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) is split into two unconnected segments, entitled "fiction" and "non-fiction". Despite these titles, both segments make equally (in)valid claims to truth, highlighting Solondz's desire to make us think about the ambiguous meaning and process of "Storytelling".

Fiction is set on a campus in the 1980s. The already troubled relationship between earnest Vi and cerebral palsy sufferer Marcus is broken when their Pulitzer-winning black tutor Mr Scott tears Marcus's latest personal piece to shreds. Rebounding and retaliating, Vi has sex with Mr Scott, documenting the experience in her next written creation.

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Non-fiction is set in present day New Jersey, amid suburban environs familiar from Solondz's previous films. Toby Oxman works in a shoe store but has aspirations to be a documentary filmmaker. He finds a focus for his piece on post-Columbine high school life in Scooby Livingston. Scooby, the disaffected son in a nice, conventional, conformist Jewish family, dreams of being the next Conan O'Brien.

Storytelling is all pro-forma stuff, the writer-director blazing away at accepted notions of taste and acceptability. Fortunately his sardonic wit hits more often than not raising laughs - with or at, to raise the Happiness division - physical handicaps, Mandingo sex fantasies, the Holocaust and more.

Of course, there are limits that even Solondz will not cross. Having a real cerebral palsy sufferer play Marcus is one. Though Leo Fitzpatrick - the skater from Kids who didn't top himself - does well, it would have been interesting to see how far having a real spastic in the role would have affected audience and critical reactions, sorting out the sickos from the also rans.

Other than this concession, one's impression that Solondz isn't prejudiced - he hates everybody equally - remains unchanged. His fans will get Storytelling but, other than the odd Belle and Sebastian fan suckered by their idols appearing on the soundtrack, it won't win him any new converts.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2001
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Storytelling packshot
Dual storyline explores suburban hypocrisy.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Todd Solondz

Writer: Gary Mitchell

Starring: Robert Wisdom, Leo Fitzpatrick, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty

Year: 2001

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2001

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