Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a resolutely average man whose life has been unstarling and consistent. Pushing 40, he still works at his father’s company, collects action figures, and lives in his parents’ house. When he meets a pretty, intriguing woman at a wedding, he acts as you would expect a man in arrested development would; he clearly does not have a clue. However, that is where the ordinary ends because once he proposes to Miranda (Selma Blair), the woman from the wedding whom he hardly knows, Todd Solondz’s latest feature, DARK HORSE, becomes something unexpected, biting, an breathtakingly unique.
Transgressive in the truest sense of the word, DARK HORSE pushes the boundaries of “shlubby guy comedies” almost as if it was a reaction to Apatow/Seth Rogen films which are also absurdist, just in a completely different fashion. The darkly-skewed comedy of DARK HORSE, for example, is more unsettling than uproarious in that it is difficult to know exactly when to laugh. However, it is those elements of humor that make the film’s borderline nihilistic themes much easier to swallow.
DARK HORSE’s title could not be more appropriate as the film consistently takes what is ordinary and spins it on its head to make it idiosyncratic, amusing, and unexpected. Abe’s parents, played by legendary actors Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow are playing “types”: the uptight, disapproving, and disappointed father and the batty, smothering, well-intentioned mother. Though these are familiar characters and very familiar actors, they play their roles in a way that emphasizes the strangeness of the film, like a song that is slightly off-key, to an enormously captivating effect. The same can be said of every aspect of the production including the erie, but bright lighting, or the wardrobe choices which are in some ways normal, yet simultaneously cartoonish. The result is a film that is challenging and a-typical while drawing on the conventional.
This particular brand of dark-humor is what one should expect from Solondz, who is an auteur of subverted expectations. Rather than being strangely familiar, his films are familiarly strange. However, the genuine comedy, sadness, and affection that is featured the film is what makes DARK HORSE sincere, and therefore more affecting than a film that just set out to be weird.
– Elizabeth Skerrett, Violet Crown Cinema