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Popcorn Preview: Dark Horse

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Film: Dark Horse (2011)
Cast includes: Jordan Gelber (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), Selma Blair (Legally Blond), Mia Farrow (Rosemary's Baby), Aasif Mandvi (The Dictator), Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2), Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can)
Writer/Director: Todd Solondz (Happiness)
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance (85 minutes)

It's a great wedding. Everyone's dancing, having a fabulous time... except for Abe and Miranda. "Dancing's not my thing," Abe tells Miranda. Miranda doesn't look happy. In fact, Miranda looks suicidal. Tubby Abe and moderately attractive Miranda are the picture of non-chemistry. That's why it's surprising when Abe asks Miranda for her phone number. She stalls but eventually gives it up. On Monday morning, Abe's back on the job at his father's real estate company. Why does Dad nag him so much? "I'm on top of it!" Abe screams. Office manager Marie thinks Abe could use a hand. Maybe she feels sorry for Abe, the perpetual underachiever. Anyway, Abe refuses help and instead goes to Toys-R-Us to return an action figure that's got a scratch. Abe's room in his parent's house is filled with action figures, even though Abe's easily 30-something.

When Abe calls Miranda to ask her out, she doesn't know what to say. When Abe gets to her parents' house, Miranda's not home. Abe sits outside in his yellow Hummer waiting. Abe is clueless about socializing... except for the visions he gets when his mind wanders. While waiting for Miranda, he has a vision of Marie telling him, "She's too good for you. You haven't got a shot." Eventually, Miranda returns and they spend a painfully uncomfortable afternoon together, which Abe seems to think has gone well enough. Meanwhile, Abe's parents are at a loss to figure out how to get their adult son to grow up. "Maybe you should go back into therapy." Abe gets angry when Mom suggests he has problems. He's not the problem; it's everyone else. "Humanity is a fucking cesspool. People only care about themselves. They treat you like shit..." In an effort to deflect criticism, Abe announces, "I'm in the middle of a relationship."

Time to step it up a notch -- Abe and Miranda get engaged. Miranda's old boyfriend, Mahmoud, gives her some words of encouragement: "He says I should give up on hope." This isn't just a story about a couple of misfits who find happiness by finding each other. Deep down, Abe -- and Miranda, for that matter -- have issues that can't be resolved by finding love. None of Abe's problems are especially uncommon in this age of entitlement. It's just that Abe's issues are all at the extreme end of the scale. He's self-centered, self-delusional, immature and in general, he's not very easy to like. We may feel conflicted watching Abe clumsily attempting to be a winner in a game where he's obviously a dark horse. While we laugh at many funny scenes, we probably know someone who has similar traits, and we probably don't like them so much if we're being totally honest. Although Abe has bouts of insight when he imagines what others might like to say to him, Abe is his own worst enemy. "If it weren't for my dad, I could have been somebody. I could have been a singer. Now I'm too old for American Idol."

2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A self-delusional underachiever tries to find love and happiness

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment & thought-provoking

Read more Popcorn Previews at www.popcorndiary.com

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