From Todd Solondz, the critically acclaimed director of Welcome to the Dollhouse comes a film comprised of two separate stories set against the sadly comical terrain of college and high school, past and present. Following ... more »the paths of its young hopeful/troubled characters, it explores issues of sex, race, celebrity and exploitation.« less
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 02/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While Todd Solondz' previous film, Happiness, was an acidic--and mordantly funny--attack on suburban life, Storytelling goes one "better" (if one can say that) and pushes the director's penchant for vitriol to the max. The two unequal components of the film, Fiction and Non-Fiction, are meant to be complementary, but do not function as such. The first, Fiction, is mercifully short, juxtaposing the intense contempt of a black prize-winning writer, relegated to the role of a fiction writing prof in a two-bit college, with his snide, spoiled, white, know-it-all students, almost all girls. He unequivocally blasts their work. In a powerful revelatory scene, the black man vents his tremendous frustration on one of the white girls whose attempt to forge a relationship with a boy in the class, stricken with cerebral palsy, fails because of his own fears of inadequacy. Her sexual frustration absolutely must have an outlet, and so she turns to the only other available male she knows.The phrase "mercifully short" is used because the characterizations here are flat and one-dimensional. In retrospect, Solondz may have done this intentionally to illustrate his own tremendous disgust at the rage inherent in societal conventions that destroy what should be (or at least is meant by) civilized behavior: racism and 'sub-human' categorization of those with physical afflictions. The bitterness is so deep in this short piece, it leaves a really strong taste; you can feel this down in your gut. Not only is it not pleasant; it's not that entertaining. He makes his point by smashing, not hitting, the viewer over the head.The second piece, Non-Fiction, is much more fully realized, and chronicles the simultaneous activity of a schleppy documentary film-maker (Paul Giamatti in one of his best roles, bar none) with a bizarre dysfunctional family, played convincingly by John Goodman and Julie Hagerty as the parents, Lupe Ontiveros as the beleagured domestic, and some talented newcomers in the roles of the sons. Here Solondz does a masterful job of combining hypnosis, a sports-related disastrous injury, and death by gas with a jaundiced view of what "entertainment" in America really means. A closet gay teenager who aspires to be the next Conan O'Brien is picked by the hapless filmmaker as his subject--clearly a choice driven by desperation--and an outrageous twist of fate ultimately leaves the filmmaker at loose ends and the teenager even more rootless than he is normally.This piece is without question one of Solondz' best works and, at the same time, is a denunciation of typical American suburban life even more bitter (if that's possible) than that depicted in Happiness. It would have been truly great to see this expanded to feature length. Rumor has it that Solondz actually shot three segments for the film. The third was not used; perhaps it will turn up in a future work, or in the inevitable DVD release.Overall this is a curious two-part film which is saved by its second story. No film maker in the United States working today has as much hatred for American mores as Solondz, but, as shown in Happiness and the Non-Fiction part of Storytelling, his intensely black humor/ferocious irony makes his work compelling."
A movie that never flinches
home_theatre_guru | Toronto, Canada | 06/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Todd Solondz's funny and controversial films examine sordid suburbia. They are witty, satirical stories but also unflinching in their use of controversial subjects like rape, pedophilia and other "uncomfortable" subjects that most mainstream films would never have the nerve to address, much less use in a comedic context. So, you either love his films or hate them (as the other reviews here will attest.) I happen to love his films.It might be best to watch his previous film, "Happiness", before watching "Storytelling" as "Storytelling" seems (to me) to be the film maker's personal response to the criticisms that his other films have elicited. "Storytelling" is composed of two, separate stories titled "Fiction" and "Non Fiction". "Non Fiction" features a documentary film maker (clearly representing Solondz)who's a downtrodden geek, accused of exploiting his subjects.His films make you laugh but also uncomfortable about laughing. I think he's an exciting voice in American cinema, far removed from the formulated drek that's cranked out by the studios. Highly recommended!"
Compelling, Disturbing, and a Fantastic Movie
J. Oliveira | California | 08/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't believe people are giving this film 1 star. Storytelling is one of the best films I've seen in a while. Yes it's disturbing -- yes it's at times shocking -- and yes maybe even a scene or two were a bit unnecessary, but director Todd Solondz is brave enough to take that extra step to keep the viewer engaged by showing them the unexpected. This movie is unlike anything you'll ever see - a "Fiction" and "Nonfiction" story put together in one movie, both being able to capture your attention. Before you pass on this movie based on all the 1-star reviews, give it a chance. You may just enjoy this very different film."
Everyone always has a story to tell.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 01/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Todd Solondz's `Welcome to the Dollhouse' showed comic/absurd promise; his masturbation scene in `Happiness' overstepped the boundary of film taste but got everyone's attention. While I didn't enjoy "Storytelling" as much as I did the Director's two previous films, "Happiness" and "Welcome to The Dollhouse," Solondz continues to amaze with his depictions of just how awkward true life really is. As always, he masterfully shows the oft times tactless, cynical, transparent motivations of everyday suburban life and combines them with outrageous situations, giving a humorous view into the myriad of interesting quirky characters he creates. As with Happiness, Storytelling has no background characters. Each character gets fully explored in a way that no matter how familiar or foreign a specific character's behavior might be to you, you can't help but understand their motivations. Solondz can develop over 10 characters in 88 minutes while most conventional Hollywood films fail to portray just one in any given 3 hour "epic".
Selma Blair and Leo Fitzpatrick give incredible performances in the first segment of this film titled "Fiction". John Goodman is at his best here in the film's second segment "Non-fiction", not to mention it was a good to see Julie Haggerty in it.
One of the film's most honest moments (and there are MANY) comes in the beginning of the Non-Fiction segment, during a phone call Paul Giamatti gives to a female classmate he hadn't spoken to since high school. While hilarious, I couldn't help but feel bad for his character, which gets fleshed out in the almost confessional tone of the conversation (which of course, he blunders).
I don't want to dig far into the plot because the elements of shock and surprise that are Solondz bread and butter should only be revealed by others, suffice it to say I recommend this movie very highly. I look forward to anything this director does. "
He's an acquired taste but I love his films.
J. Oliveira | 08/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Todd Solodnz is not everyone's cup of tea. To enjoy his films, one must have a jet-black sense of humor and be comfortable with having your buttons pushed. He's definitely an acquired taste, but I love his movies. And, this one is no exception. It reminded me of Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" in that it seems to be Solondz's response to his crticis. Indeed, it's a good film, but it's even better if you've already seen his other films ("Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Fear, Anxiety, & Depression," and "Happiness"). Solodnz dwells on subjects that most people would rather pretend don't exist (oh, but they do, they do). He makes you squirm and think and usually laugh at what you're seeing even though you may feel guilty about it afterwards. But, that's the point of a Todd Solondz film - anyone seeking lighthearted escapist fare will run screaming from the exits. But, for those who can "take it" and appreciate something different and intelligent, there are many rewards to be found. "Storytelling" may be a tad weaker than "Welcome" & "Happiness" (though miles above "Fear"), but it still succeeds wonderfully. I can't get this film out of my mind. It's essentially an examination of where the line between valid art and exploitation lies, of where the search for truth ends and a carnival geek show begins. And, it's a doozy. The MPAA objected to one particular scene in the first segment, "Fiction," causing Solondz to obscure the offending image with a bright, incongruous red rectangle rather than cut it (the scene in question is integral to the story). Now, that one can see the scene uncensored on this DVD, it provides even more proof that the MPAA is out of control (the scene is really no more explicit than anything to be found in, say, "Original Sin"). It's really the ideals and concepts Todd examines which make the MPAA uncomfortable, but all they can do is attack scenes with nudity and clearly simulated sex. Ridiculous, really. Some may find the subject matter and sense of humor repugnant, but this is one of the better films I've seen recently."