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Starring: Paul Giamatti, Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Wisdom, John Goodman, Julie Haggarty, Noah Fleiss, Lupe Ontiveros and Aleska Pallidino
Directed/written by: Todd Solondz
Rated: R

Storytelling comes to us via social alienation king, writer/director, Todd Solondz. He's the kind of guy who likes the darker more disturbing side of the human psyche and thrills in showing us how brutal humans can be to each other. Be warned. His work includes Happiness (with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Flynn Boyle). Wildly popular with Indie fans it was a brutally honest and brilliantly acted. Before that he brought us Welcome To The Dollhouse (with wonderful Heather Mattarazzo) another dark look at the underside of everyday life. They are definitely pitch black dark comedies that are intoxicating and disturbing all at once.

That having been said I was tickled rouge when I was asked to preview Storytelling. While Storytelling stays within his dark niche within a genre, is actually homogenized a bit for my tastes. That is, he seems to have toned it down a little as opposed to his previous no-prisoners films.

In Storytelling he presents to "shorts" as fiction and nonfiction screenplays. Of course he plays with us and they are actually polar opposites of their descriptions. That's Solondz.

The first section of the film is about a college student, Vi (Selma Blair) who idolizes her dark and mysterious pompous and famous writing professor M. Scott (Robert Wisdom) and her aspiring writer boyfriend, Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) who's got a harder time than most fitting in. Vi longs for the soul to write as he does. The sleazy professor isn't too impressed with her writing but is willing to use her idolization for his own sexual benefits.

This section of the film is disturbing because of it's brutal honesty about the way some people in authority will use that power to engulf another and spit them out. Even though its only about a half an hour long I found the pace slow moving and dragging, but the final scene were a classroom of "know-it-all" students dissect Vi's final written assignment is worth the wait.

The second section introduces Toby (Paul Giamatti) Oxman life ne'er do weller and general geek. You'll be able to see instantly he's a loser with exponents.

Toby's a struggling...well...filmmaker who decides to do a documentary about high school. When he researches a school he meets Scooby (Mark Webber). Scooby comes from a well-to-do family with hidden demons and all-American desires. Scooby's family seems normal enough, but under the eye of Toby's lens their dreams and aspirations come off twisted and extreme. Especially Scooby's goal oriented father Marty (John Goodman).

Toby simply follows Scooby around along with his family, as he prepares for the SAT test that will make or break his future.

Storytelling is two simple story lines that at the hands of Solondz and his wonderful cast of actors become interesting and plain old voyeuristic at times. The dialog real and often razor sharp with its brutal honesty. The comedy is dark as burnt toast- just the way I like it!

The first story had great acting but was just too calmly portrayed and had a couple of as-if scenes. The second section about Toby and Scooby, I personally, enjoyed more. Of course I am biased as I adore Jimmy Tomorrow, er, Paul Giamatti and his acting style.

Then the actor playing Scooby perfect as stoner, anarchist, confused teen. John Goodman as Scooby's dad was simply hysterical at times. Julie Haggarty is perfect as Scooby's Insta-flakes Mom and socail climber Fern.

But, it's the smallest child in the family, Jonathan Osser who plays Mikey that'll have you chilled with fear. He's not a focus of the story, yet it's so strong a sub-text you'll start to wait for his scenes to come up.He's a young manipulator with a venomous streak that comes off as childishly mischievous at first, till his black little soul is revealed, a soul akin to Damian from the Omen series! Creep-o-rama central. His conversations with the families maid, Consuelo (Lupe Ontiveros) will have a chill firmly bolting up your spine! He truly steals the show.

Storytelling is a great film for the acting and dialog study alone, but you also get some new talent to peruse through and a couple of clever stories to chew on. Admittedly, it's not Solondz's finest work but at least he's still making films and a voice as unique as he needs to stay around to keep the generic movie-stuff we are often force fed in check. Enjoy.

Snack recommendation: Blintzes and coffee.





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