Storytelling (2001)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Ensemble Film, Satire  |   Release Date - Jan 25, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Perry Seibert

Todd Solondz mines familiar territory with Storytelling, but adds a large dose of self-consciousness. Obviously Solondz has heard his critics who complain that he is a manipulative writer interested in little more than cruelty and pain; he has characters in both of these stories voice these complaints to the two characters who are attempting to work out their personal lives in their art. While the "fiction" half of the film addresses its difficult issues with the shockingly cold deadpan humor and the bored "in-your-face" style that is familiarly Solondz, the much longer "non-fiction" portion is little more than the work of a director who, with nothing new to say, simply attempts to answer his critics. Giamatti is made to physically resemble Solondz, and his battles with his editor allow Solondz the chance to have a character voice towards his look-alike the complaints levied against Solondz and his earlier films. While apparently self-critical, Solondz turns the tables on his critics by showing an audience laughing appreciatively at the cruel film his character has created. Solondz is less interested in analyzing why he is drawn to this material than he is in blaming his audience for liking his (according to his critics) "mean-spirited" films. This disturbing attack might work if there was a narrative to go with it, but the story of the family that Giamatti is chronicling is barely more than a tired and redundant retread of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse. Storytelling is the work of a man at a crossroads, which is an uncomfortable place to be for a director who has thus far blazed his own trail.