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Storytelling

Year: 2001
Production Co: Good Machine
Director: Todd Solondz
Writer: Todd Solondz
Cast: Selma Blair, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman
I love the scene in Natural Born Killers - styled after a cheesy TV sitcom - where Mickey and Mallory first meet. Oliver Stone uses the language of American culture to peel back the cracking formica of a million suburban kitchen benches, exposing the disenfranchisement and rot underneath effortlessly.

Todd Solondz' entire career is like that, quite often delving into utter pretentiousness. Welcome to the Dollhouse was a study in misery with no plot or resolution and hence both a big waste of time and an unsatisfactory film.

Storytelling comes in two parts that seem at first glance totally unrelated. In the first one, a young student (Blair) with a palsy-afflicted boyfriend falls under the spell of her intimidatingly masculine lecturer, despite finding photos of him with her fellow students in the poses she's soon going to end up in.

Then, for no reason, we switch to a middle-aged guy (Giamatti) who feels like a loser in a failed life where he was supposed to be an artist of some sort. He decides to make a documentary film about a suburban family, and chooses a seemingly normal one where the fault lines soon become apparent.

That's the set-up. The narrative and the set-pieces are increasingly bizarre and nonsensical, such as where the kid hypnotises his father (Goodman) and the macabre ending. While not much of a storyteller (ironically, given the title), the one thing you can say about Solondz is that he's a cultural terrorist, not afraid of depicting anything with honesty.

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